The North Carolina Courage are set to defend their ICC Women’s Tournament title this August in Cary, NC. The tournament pits women’s club teams from around the world against one another. The inaugural tournament was held last year in Miami, Florida with four teams competing in a three-game mini-tournament, and despite initially indicating that the tournament would expand in 2019 it will once again feature just four teams.
Last year, the four teams competing were the Courage, who play in the National Women’s Soccer League, Manchester City, who play in the Women’s Super League in England, Paris Saint-Germain, and Olympique Lyonnais, both of whom play in the Division 1 Féminine in France. The Courage stunned the world when they beat PSG 2-1 in the opening round and then put together an amazing defensive effort to win 1-0 over Lyon in the final. Lyon beat Man City 3-0 in their opening match of the tournament. The winning goal was scored by Heather O’Reilly and was secured by an amazing performance by Sabrina D’Angelo between the pipes. The Courage were missing all of the USWNT players during the tournament last year.
Lots of big news today for women’s football! Thrilled to be here in NYC for it with some other decent players . Tune in! https://t.co/y5Ooq7oL5N— Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly) March 29, 2019
After suboptimal attendance at the 2018 tournament, the ICC decided to move the tournament to Cary, NC for 2019. This move makes sense. First, Miami is absurdly hot and expensive. It has a nice international airport, which is a necessity, but playing in an empty Hard Rock Stadium is expensive and unnecessary. Part of the men’s tournament was already taking place in Miami last year, but this year the operation had to adjust because of the 2019 Women’s World Cup being held from June 7th to July 7th. Providing a home atmosphere for one team might not be entirely fair, but it assures that attendance will be high and awards the inaugural champions.
Three of the four teams from last year will return to the tournament. The North Carolina Courage, Manchester City, and Lyon will all be returning to the tournament. Atletico Madrid will replace Paris Saint-Germain in this year’s tournament. Madrid plays in the Primera Division in Spain. Lyon and Madrid both lead their respective leagues while Man City currently sits second on the league table in England. Madrid defeated Manchester in the first round of the 2018/19 UEFA Women’s Champions League before they were, in turn, beaten by Wolfsburg in the second round. Lyon is currently scheduled to play in the semifinals against Chelsea.
The tournament announcement is a letdown for anyone who has been following and anxiously awaiting more news. There had been semi-official announcements that the tournament would be expanding to eight teams across two cities, but it sounds like discussions with Portland broke down. The original expectation was that four NWSL teams and four European teams would participate in 2019. The 2019 Women’s World Cup undoubtedly complicated the timeline.
The tournament format will remain the same this year. The two semifinal matches will take place on Thursday, August 15th and the final will take place on Sunday, August 18th. On the one hand, this schedule is amazing because it allows for the full complement of Courage players for the match. On the other hand, the Courage are already slated to play games against the Houston Dash on August 16th and Reign FC on August 24th. The back-to-back games will certainly be tough for the Courage.