On the heels of the historic victory for the U.S. Women's national team in the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, the U.S.
U-21 women's national team will travel to Iceland to compete in the Nordic Cup from Aug. 2-8. Held annually in Northern Europe, the Nordic Cup brings together the world's top U-21 women's national teams for the most important women's youth tournament for this age group.
The grueling schedule features four matches in seven days for all eight teams, with the group winners meeting for the championship on Aug. 8 at the National Stadium in Laugardalsvollur.
"Although this is one the youngest teams we've brought to the Nordic Cup, it's a team that promises to uphold the tradition of excellence of our women's national team program," said U.S. U-21 coach Lauren Gregg. "They have prepared hard all year and have had great success to date. We have some wonderful attacking personalities."
Gregg took over the U-21 program in 1997 with team having won just once in five previous trips to the tournament. The USA won the Nordic Cup that year in Denmark, defeating arch-rival Norway in the championship game, 1-0, in sudden death overtime on a goal from Jen Streiffer. The USA fell to Norway last year in Holland, 2-1, with 1999 Women's World Cup star Cindy Parlow tallying for the USA, and will be looking to recapture the title.
The USA opens the tournament vs. Finland on Aug. 2 in Stjornvollur . The USA will then play Germany on Aug. 4 in Borgarnesvollur and finish first-round play against on Aug. 6 against Denmark in Fjolnisvollur. The American U-21s defeated both Germany and Denmark by a goal on a two-game tour of Europe earlier this year. The USA will play in Group 2 while Group 1 features host Iceland, Australia, Sweden and Norway.
Of the 18-players on the U.S. roster, four are from University of North Carolina and three are from Notre Dame while Santa Clara and the University of Portland have two players each.
Players born after Jan. 1, 1978, are eligible for this year's Nordic Cup Team, however, each team is allowed two "overage" spots on its roster for players born after Jan. 1, 1975. Gregg used just one of her overage slots, naming U-21 veteran and team captain Michelle French to the squad. The roster includes four players who have not yet entered college in Lauren Orlandos, who will attend the University of Portland next fall, and Susan Bush, who will attend North Carolina. Veronica Zepeda (Riverside, Calif.) and Aleisha Cramer (Lakewood, Colo.) will be seniors in high school this fall.
Gregg will look to Bush, UNC's Meredith Florance and Clemson's Beth Keller for offensive punch, but a talented midfield may make the difference. Rising star Aly Wagner of Santa Clara, who like Bush is fresh off a five-month residency camp with the full national team, will play with Cramer, the nation's top senior, as well as 1996 Olympic team alternate Streiffer and U-21 veteran Jen Grubb. The defense will be anchored by French, Stanford star Ronnie Fair and Santa Clara standout Danielle Slaton.
"It's important that all of our women's national teams strive for the same standard," added Gregg, who has served as an assistant coach on all three U.S. world championship teams. "These players are clearly instrumental in our quest to win in the future. You will see some of them compete for residency spots and positions on our Olympic roster, and an even larger number on our next Women's World Cup team."
Here's a look at the U-21 national team roster:
Goalkeepers -- Lakeysie Beene (Notre Dame), Siri Mullinix (North Carolina).
Defenders -- Ronnie Fair (Stanford), Michelle French (Portland), Kalli Kamholz (Vanderbilt), Heather Mitts (Florida), Lauren Orlandos (Mission Viejo, Calif., Mirage), Danielle Slaton (Santa Clara).
Midfielders -- Aleisha Cramer (Colorado Rush Nike), Jen Grubb (Notre Dame), Jen Streiffer (Notre Dame), Aly Wagner (Santa Clara).
Forwards -- Susan Bush (North Carolina), Meredith Florance (North Carolina), Beth Keller (Clemson), Venus James (UCLA), Raven McDonald (North Carolina), Veronica Zepeda (Claremont, Calif. Stars).
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