With the release today of the NWSL schedule, speculation on how many matches national team players will miss due to World Cup duty enters full swing. Most national federations have yet to formally announce residency plans, however there is enough available information to draw some conclusions.
The Houston Dash will likely have 7-8 players away at the World Cup with three different nations; United States: Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian and Meghan Klingenberg; Canada: Erin McLeod, Alyssa Chapman and Lauren Sesselmann; and Brazil: Rosana and Poliana.
The United States Women’s National Team has matches throughout much of March at the Algarve Cup and on April 4th against New Zealand in St. Louis. They then have a break until they start their warm-up schedule for the World Cup on May 10th against Ireland in San Jose.
Towards the end of last season as the league and the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) looked towards planning for 2015 and the World Cup, there was some indication that U.S. national team players would be back and forth between their NWSL teams and national team training. On this week’s The Mixxed Zone podcast, Dash head coach Randy Waldrum indicated that the USSF has concluded that the wear and tear of traveling back and forth might be damaging to the players. Instead, players will join their NWSL teams for the start of the season and go into national team residency around the end of April or early May.
If that plan holds true, the three U.S. national team players on the Dash will miss most of preseason training, but will be present for the three matches in April including the home opener on April 10th against the Washington Spirit and possibly the May 2nd home match against FC Kansas City.
The situation for the Canadian players is a little different; Canada has a friendly against France on the outskirts of Paris on April 9th, so McLeod and company will miss the Dash home opener. Canada’s World Cup warm-up schedule has not yet been confirmed, but expect a similar schedule to that of the United States. In between, Waldrum indicated on The Mixxed Zone that Canada tentatively wants players to travel back and forth for NWSL games and national team training. Discussions continue to try to convince the Canadian Federation that this is counter-productive for the players but no decision have been made as of yet. In any event, the Canadians will likely be available for the two away matches against Sky Blue on April 18th and the Boston Breakers on April 26th and possibly the May 2nd home match.
The Brazilians are in a similar situation as the Canadians; Brazil plays a friendly at Germany on April 8th so Rosana and Poliana (if included in the side) would not be available for the Dash opener. Thereafter, Waldrum indicates that there has been some talk of Brazil going into residency straight through the World Cup, however he speculates that this will not be the case and that the Rosana and Poliana may be available for the two April away matches.
As a result, it looks likely that Dash fans will have the chance to turn out to BBVA Compass Stadium on April 10th to see Lloyd, Brian and Klingenberg along with the rest of the team. All of the national teamers (with the possible exception of the two Brazilians) look set to play in the two April away matches and there is an outside chance that Houston fans will be able to give their World Cup players a home send-off on May 2nd.
Thereafter, the Dash will be without the national team players for the remainder of May – 3 matches in total – as well as all 3 matches in June assuming the USA, Brazil and Canada all reach the quarterfinals. There is a break in play for the Dash after June 27th with their next match at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 12th after the World Cup is completed. Barring call ups for friendlies, the national team players should be available for all 10 matches following the conclusion of the World Cup.
That leaves national teamers missing out on preseason and anywhere from 5-7 matches which is better than the originally anticipated 6-10 matches. Integrating players at the start of the season after missing out on preseason training with their teams will be a challenge, as it will post-World Cup when teams have been playing with another set of players for two months. However, the absence of players during the preseason does make it easier for teams to get a good look at a larger number of potential amateur players. Teams are limited to a roster of 30 players in the preseason, however the absent national team players will not count against that total (unlike the regular season when they will count against the 20 player roster). Waldrum has taken full advantage of that fact to invite a large number of undrafted and unattached players in for the preseason.
Open tryouts for the Houston Dash take place on February 21st and preseason training is scheduled to begin on March 9th.