USA vs Australia Tournament of Nations preview: A clash between NWSL stacked teams

The USWNT goes into the inaugural tournament after finishing last at the SheBelieves Cup in March by taking on Australia, a young team looking to set the course of their national program.

USA vs Australia Tournament of Nations preview: A clash between NWSL stacked teams
USA and Australia meet for the first time in international play since June 2015.

The USWNT begins its Tournament of Nations play by taking on Australia at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington on Thursday. The game is scheduled for 10 pm ET with national coverage to be broadcasted on ESPN.

About the Tournament

The Tournament of Nations, announced back in May, is an elite four-nation competition featuring the USWNT, Brazil, Australia, and Japan. The tournament celebrates the connection between cultures, diversity, and a respect for the game of soccer, as well its ability to create competition of the women's game worldwide. Each nation has seen the growth of the women's game in their respective country over the last two decades, including the start of women's professional soccer leagues.

The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) is home to several USWNT members and to several Australians playing in the tournament, including Lydia Williams (Houston Dash), Haley Raso (Portland Thorns), Sam Kerr (Sky Blue FC), and Steph Catley and Alana Kennedy (Orlando Pride). The Australian League, the Westfield W-League, also welcomes American players during the NWSL off-season.

The round-robin tournament is to be held each year that does not fall during a World Cup or Olympic year. The winner will be decided based on how many points a team earns through three games of competition - three points of a win, one for a draw, and zero for a loss. Should teams be tied at the end in points, then the tie-breaker will first be decided by a goal differential, second in total goals scored, third by head-to-head-results, and finally by FIFA ranking, if needed.

USWNT vs Australia: A History

The USWNT and Australia have met 27 times since 1987. Since then, the USWNT leads the international series with a 25-0-2 record, outscoring the Matildas 95-22 in overall goals. The last time both teams met was in the opening Group D game in the 2015 Women's World Cup in Winnipeg. Goals from Megan Rapinoe (2) and Christen Press gave the USWNT a 3-1 victory to start the World Cup. The USWNT would eventually go on to create history by capturing its third World Cup title.

Before World Cup, the USWNT hosted Australia in San Antonio, TX on October 20, 2013. The USWNT won 4-0.

Since 2015, A Rebuilding Process

Both the USWNT and Australia have gone through a bit of a rebuilding process since 2015, on and off the field.

Off the field, after its success in the Women's World Cup, the USWNT fought for equal pay and filed a federal complaint about wage discrimination. The USWNT eventually signed a new CBA for better pay and better playing conditions. The Australian women, who reached the quarterfinals at the World Cup, the first team from Australia to win a knockout soccer game (men or women), actually went on strike after the World Cup for better pay. The Matildas were set to face the newly-crowned USWNT World Cup winners as a part of their victory tour, but they walked out of training camp after contract talks stalled. The Matildas and the national federation struck a deal in November 2015 that improved salaries, raises, and benefits.

For the USWNT, after a quarterfinals exit at the 2016 Olympic Games, failing to medal for the first time since women's soccer was introduced to the games in 1996, began a rebuilding process that included calling younger players to the team and experimenting with a 3-5-2 system. A last place finish at the 2017 SheBelieves Cup put the 3-5-2 experiment on hold. 

The Matildas also finished in the quarterfinals at the Rio Games, falling to Brazil in penalty kicks. Like the USWNT, Australia has turned to calling younger players to the national team. Only six players were 25 years of age or older for the 2017 Algarve Cup in March. The young Australian squad finished 4th in that tournament. 

What to Expect

Simply, both teams are out to prove why they are two of the top ten national teams in the world. The USWNT is ranked number 1 while Australia is ranked number 7. 

Becky Sauerbrunn has started every international match for the U.S. this year  | Photo: Jim Malone - VAVEL USA
Becky Sauerbrunn has started every international match in 2017 | Photo: Jim Malone - VAVEL USA

With the 2019 Women's World Cup in France two years away, tournaments such as these that bring four top ten teams to compete against one another, there is much to learn and prepare for. After disappointing finishes in the past year in international competition, both teams are looking to move beyond.