Devoted soccer fans are anxiously awaiting the start of play for the women's 2011 World Cup being played in Germany.
The USA landed in Group C with a schedule that includes an opening game on June 26 with Korea, a July 2 date with Colombia and will complete group play on July 6 against Sweden. FIFA World Cup authorities have already called Group C a nightmare with USA coming in with the world's No. 1 ranking.
The American team is anchored by coach Pia Sundhage, and players to watch for the team include Hope Solo, goalie; Abby Wambach, forward; and Carli Lloyd, midfielder. Look for the the U.S. to play the same style it has been utilizing with stylish passing and a very aggressive power game. The U.S. has a nice blend of youth and experience in its 21 total players on the roster.
U.S. captain Christie Rampone is seeing action in her fourth World Cup and is the last remaining player from America's World Cup championship team from 1999. Midfielder Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach will participate in their third World Cup, but 12 of the American players will be seeing action in their first World Cup.
After three years of player evaluations, the team has been broken down to three goalkeepers, seven defenders, seven midfielders and seven forwards. Although many don't have World Cup experience, 14 players were on the 2008 Olympic gold medal roster.
Lloyd leads the entire team in scoring, Alex Morgan is the youngest player on the squad at 21, and Rampone is by far the most senior player at 35.
There is a nice Penn State touch to this year's World Cup squad. Ali Krieger, a 2007 graduate of PSU and outstanding Nittany Lion defender, has been playing for Frankford and has won a European title, but wants to come back to the U.S. to chase the World Cup title.
There is no doubt that the U.S. is putting an extremely talented team on the field to garner the World Cup title after a 12-year drought. The key to capturing the World Cup is to have totally consistent play and depth of roster.
With a plethora of the world's greatest talent in soccer and some incredibly talented teams, this year's women's World Cup features some excellent matchups for fantastic viewing by fans.
The spring travel season is always difficult as the schedule at the beginning never includes game times, which are figured out on a week-to-week basis. This has led to difficulty in getting games played.
Hats off to Altoona Soccer Club president and game assigner Mitch Swanger for juggling times and fields of play to meet team needs and for having full referee staffing for every game. Given the horrible weather, the turf fields in Altoona proved to be an extremely valuable commodity. Many of the local high schools took advantage of the spring season to bring their players together and get a feel for playing with one another and sharpen competitive game skills for the 2011 fall scholastic season. High school teams from Altoona, Hollidaysburg, West Branch, Bedford, Moshannon Valley, Penn Cambria, Tyrone and Clearfield all took part in the crowded girls U-19 bracket.
This should definitely pay dividends in September and the opening of the high school soccer season.
Schmitt writes a monthly soccer column for the Mirror.