CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying Begins Tonight

The 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship begins tonight in Kansas City. While there will be a winner, the important thing to remember is that the two finalists will join Canada in representing CONCACAF in the Women’s World Cup in 2015. The third place finisher in the tournament will play Ecuador in a home-and-home for the final World Cup spot. Now if you think the United States will just coast through this tournament and qualify for the Women’s World Cup, you would be dead wrong because they almost didn’t qualify last time when it was supposed to be this easy.

The last time the United States had to qualify for the Women’s World Cup was in the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup. Just like with this years qualifying tournament, the top two qualified for the Women’s World Cup and third place played Italy in a home-and-home. The United States dominated in the Group Stage and won all three group games without allowing a single goal and having an 18 goal differential. In the semifinals, the US faced the hosts, Mexico, for a spot in the Women’s World Cup. Mexico capitalized by being the hosts and catching the US on an off night and beat them 2-1. Because of that, the best team in the world had to play in three straight must win games in order to qualify for the Women’s World Cup. They beat Costa Rica 3-0 to finish third and defeated Italy 1-0 in both games to become the last team to qualify for the 2011 Women’s World Cup.

This year, the United States do have it a little bit easier. Their main CONCACAF rival, Canada, is already qualified due to hosting the Women’s World Cup. Also, instead of having to try and qualify in Mexico, the United States is hosting this tournament so they should be able to qualify. Only problem is that the squad has had to face a couple of issues recently that they didn’t face in 2010 that could potentially sideline them.

The most glaring issue is the situation of starting goalkeeper, Hope Solo. Solo was arrested in June 2014 for allegedly attacking her sister and nephew. Before that, Solo was in the news as the victim when she was attacked by her then fiancee, former NFL Tight End Jerramy Stevens. The two got married the day after Stevens’ trial. After recent high profile cases of domestic violence, whereas players like Ray Rice have been suspended indefinitely after public outrage, US Soccer has been allowing Solo to play despite awaiting trial. Some have pointed to this as a double standard and one of her teammates has called US Soccer out on it. Jillian Loyden wrote an op-ed piece in USA Today saying that Solo should not be playing right now. The entire article is a great insight from someone who is a teammate of Hope Solo as well as someone who is championing against domestic violence. While Loyden is not on the roster for this tournament, I can’t imagine she isn’t the only person on the team who has had the opinion that Solo should not be playing. It’s unknown as to whether or not this has caused a rift in the USWNT locker room but this could come up at any time.

The second issue is the shakeup in managers since 2011. Pia Sundhage went to manage in her native Sweden in 2012 and the US hired former Australian women’s manager, Tom Sermanni. Soon after a bad performance in the Algarve Cup, US Soccer fired Sermanni and hired USSF Development Director, Jillian Ellis to the position where she currently has both jobs. Ellis was also interim manager in between Sundhage and Sermanni so it’s clear that she has worked with the team for the past few years and knows what she’s doing. Her issue is that she is faced with some rather tough tasks. US Soccer fired someone who had a 17-4-2 record and the US women have never finished worse than third in the Women’s World Cup. Pretty much, it’s win or bust for Ellis if she expects to stay on as USWNT manager after the World Cup.

Back to the competition, the United States must face Trinidad and Tobago tonight in KC, Guatemala in Chicago on Friday and Haiti in Washington DC on Monday the 20th. In addition to Costa Rica, Mexico, Jamaica and Martinique, who are in the other group, the United States should be able to easily qualify for the Women’s World Cup but like I have pointed out, that’s easier said than done. They still have to play four games to get to that final at PPL Park in Philadelphia on October 26.

About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them. Follow me on Twitter @phillipbupp