With a double World Cup/Olympics qualification tournament around the corner, the U.S. women’s national team has lined up Uzbekistan as its next opponent in April, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced Thursday. The games will be played April 9 at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio, and April 12 at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.
The pair of friendlies will be the first time the USWNT has ever faced Uzbekistan, which became an independent country in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union and is ranked 45th in FIFA’s world rankings. Uzbekistan will become the USWNT’s 55th all-time opponent.
A source with knowledge of the scheduling told ESPN that another team, a top opponent from East Asia, was lined up for the game for months, but pulled out in early February due to government-mandated COVID-19 protocols requiring quarantines for players. The source added that U.S. Soccer sought a higher-ranked opponent, but only had about two weeks to find a replacement.
While selecting an opponent that has never qualified for a World Cup or Olympics may raise eyebrows, U.S. Soccer did not feel it was an option to skip games in the April window ahead of its qualifiers in July, a source said.
Following the April friendlies, the USWNT will have one more window in June before the World Cup/Olympics qualification tournament. An opponent is set for that window and the games will be played domestically, the source said.
The CONCACAF W Championship, which for the first time will double as the qualification tournament for both the Women’s World Cup and the Olympics, has been set July 4-18 in Monterrey, Mexico. The USWNT and Canada already have guaranteed spots in that tournament, but another 30 teams from CONCACAF are in an ongoing competition for the remaining six spots.
The USWNT’s game vs. Uzbekistan on April 12 will air on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET.