The U.S. women's soccer team has put its first trip to the Northeast on its 2018 calendar. For the second straight year, Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., will host the SheBelieves Cup, a round-robin friendly tournament played against European powers England, France and Germany. All three nations are in the top six of FIFA's global rankings.
Red Bull Arena will house the middle doubleheader of the event, on Sunday, March 4, with the U.S. facing France at noon. It will be the first U.S.-France meeting since Les Bleues routed the Americans 3-0 at last year's SheBelieves Cup. The U.S. has played four times previously at Red Bull Arena and has a 2-1-1 record. The loss was at last year's SheBelieves Cup, to England by a 1-0 margin.
(March 4 is the day after the Union's season opener against the New England Revolution at Talen Energy Stadium, by the way. That will make for a busy weekend for Philadelphia-area soccer fans interested in both games. At least you won't have to choose between them if you want to go to both, and have the time and money for tickets.)
The other SheBelieves Cup venues will be MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio and Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla. Columbus has hosted the U.S. women seven times, including at the 2003 World Cup. Orlando has done so 10 times, but this will be the first at at the new soccer-specific venue downtown.
ESPN networks will televise all of the U.S. games. There's no confirmation yet about how the other games will be broadcast in the U.S., but if history is any indication, expect some sort of online streaming.
Tickets go on sale to the public Jan. 11.
This edition of the SheBelieves Cup will be the third since the event launched in 2016, and it's likely to be the most important yet. Because the tournament was designed to be held in years when there isn't a World Cup or Olympics, it might not be played in 2019, when France will host the World Cup in the summer. The same is true for the mid-summer Tournament of Nations, in which the U.S. brings Australia, Brazil and Japan here for a similar round-robin event.
(Expect the Tournament of Nations games to be on Fox in 2018, by the way. Fox had the SheBelieves Cup in 2017, so it's not surprising that Fox and ESPN swap the two events.)
It's also the third time that the SheBelieves Cup has been played in eastern states. That isn't coincidental. It's easier to bring European teams to eastern venues, just as it's easier to bring Australia and Japan to the west coast.
The centerpiece of the Americans' 2018 schedule will be CONCACAF's World Cup qualifying tournament, which has tentatively been scheduled for early October. The National Women's Soccer League season is likely to begin soon after the SheBelieves Cup, and end before the World Cup qualifying tournament begins.
2018 SheBelieves Cup schedule
At MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
4 p.m.: England vs. France
7 p.m.: United States vs. Germany (ESPN2)
At Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.
12 p.m.: United States vs. France (ESPN2)
3 p.m.: Germany vs. England
At Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
4 p.m.: France vs. Germany
7 p.m.: United States vs. England (ESPNews)