US women plan 10-city tour in advance of World Cup in France

CHICAGO (AP) — The U.S. women’s soccer team has finalized plans for a 10-game “Countdown to the Cup” tour in advance of next year’s World Cup.

The team will visit Europe to start the new year, playing France and Spain, before playing eight matches in the United States. The games will serve as preparation for the World Cup in France.

The top-ranked Americans are the defending World Cup champions.

Opponents on the tour will include Japan, England, Brazil, Australia, Belgium and South Africa, which has made the World Cup field for the first time.

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“This schedule checks a lot of important boxes in our preparation for the World Cup. We’ll get to experience a variety of teams in regard to their strengths and styles of play and almost all of the countries will be in their World Cup preparation as well,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said in a statement Thursday.

The U.S. will learn its opponents for the group stage of the World Cup on Saturday when the draw is held in Paris.

The schedule, including date, opponent, tournament (if applicable), arena and city:

Jan. 19, France, Stade Oceane, Le Havre, France.

Jan. 22, Spain, Estadio Jose Rico Perez, Alicante, Spain.

Feb. 27, Japan, SheBelieves Cup, Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania.

March 2, England, SheBelieves Cup, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee.

March 5, Brazil, SheBelieves Cup, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida.

April 4, Australia, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park; Commerce City, Colorado.

April 7, Belgium, Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles, California.

May 12, South Africa, Send-Off Series, Levi’s Stadium; Santa Clara, California.

May 16, to be determined, Send-Off Series, Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri.

May 26, Mexico, Send-Off Series, Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey.

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