The SheBelieves Cup is a round robin tournament that’s been hosted in the U.S. since 2016 and features three other national teams plus the USWNT. The matches are officially labeled as exhibitions, or ‘friendlies,’ but have historically served as opportunities for some of the best teams in the world to test themselves against one another without the weight of a major tournament looming overhead.
In 2022, however, the tournament saw the USWNT host Iceland, Czech Republic and New Zealand; no disrespect, but not exactly elite teams in women’s soccer. However, after a historic-for-all-the-wrong-reasons three-match losing streak (that required a two-goal comeback in the final match of the year to prevent it from becoming four) to close out 2022, U.S. Soccer had to decide where they’d place the difficulty slider for 2023. I’m pleased to report that they chose an ambitious and intriguing setting.
From February 16-22, the USWNT will enter into a small round-robin tournament against an exciting Brazil team, solid Japan squad, and Olympic champions Canada. Here’s what you need to know about the USWNT and each of their opponents.
The team not only has an alarming list of injuries, but is also struggling to find solutions and fit tactics to personnel. With the World Cup fewer than seven months away, it’s important to make every minute of game time between now and then count. This collection of opponents provides the USWNT a sprawling variety of players and styles to test themselves against.
While some familiar faces might be back from injury – barring no setbacks, Morgan Gautrat, Lynn Williams, and Casey Krueger – they’ll still be some months from a relatively complete squad. Still, the USWNT is still one of the most talented national teams in the world, and will be looking to reestablish that fact early in 2023.
USWNT v. Canada, Thursday, Feb. 16 @ 7pm ET [Orlando, FL]
USWNT v. Japan, Sunday, Feb. 19 @ 3:30pm ET [Nashville, TN]
USWNT v. Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 22 @ 7pm ET [Frisco, TX]
Brazil is an ultra young team, but full of talents that will delight across women’s soccer for the next decade. Making them even more dangerous is that they’re in a sweet spot of roster construction in which veteran stars like Debinha, Marta and Tamires get to mix with next-generation talents like Kerolin, Geyse and Bruninha.
In her first NWSL season, Kerolin established herself as one of the league’s most dangerous 1v1 attackers. Geyse is currently starring for Barcelona, and at just 20 years old, Bruninha was brought in to be part of Gotham FC’s major rebuild.
Brazil are highly technical and full of audacity, giving them the confidence that they can break a press or create a shooting opportunity through individual brilliance or slick, coordinated team moves. Controlling the game versus Brazil will present a difficult challenge for the USWNT defense.
Brazil v. Japan, Thursday, Feb. 16 @ 4pm ET [Orlando, FL]
Brazil v. Canada, Sunday, Feb. 19 @ 6:30pm ET [Nashville, TN]
Brazil v. USWNT, Wednesday, Feb. 22 @ 7pm ET [Frisco, TX]
Canada are one of the best stories across women’s soccer. Despite not having a professional domestic league (one has been announced to begin play in 2025), they’ve sent players across the globe to gain valuable experience – and it’s worked wonders. The result is a highly cohesive unit that has seemingly come from nowhere to win 2020 Olympic gold and announce themselves as title contenders in any competition they enter.
They start with a solid defense, including top tier goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, bolstered by Chelsea’s Kadeisha Buchanan and one of the best fullbacks in the world, Paris St. Germain’s Ashley Lawrence. Canada also have a host of attacking talent through all-time international goalscorer Christine Sinclair, Jordyn Huitema, Adrianna Leon and Julia Grosso.
Head coach Bev Priestman typically prefers a more structured, defensively resolute style that can be difficult to crack, but also limits their own attacking prowess. The USWNT attack will have to be technically sound to take advantage of limited opportunities to get through Canada’s defense, and clinical enough to turn those chances into goals.
Canada v. USWNT, Feb. 16 @ 7pm ET [Orlando, FL]
Canada v. Brazil, Feb 19 @ 6:30pm ET [Nashville, TN]
Canada v. Japan, Feb. 22 @ 4pm ET [Frisco, TX]
Japan is another young team but are probably slightly behind Brazil in their development. That doesn’t, however, mean that Japan can’t find the right combination and shift into another gear at any moment, or during this tournament. They have well-balanced player profiles that can cause a variety of problems in midfield. From Jun Endo’s (Angel City FC) intensity, to the clever off-ball movement of Hina Sugita (Portland Thorns), to the technically adept games of Mana Iwabuchi (Arsenal) and Yui Hasegawa (Manchester City), Japan will not be an easy puzzle to solve.
The USWNT midfield will need to be alert to contain Japan, and display a cohesion we’ve yet to consistently see if they are to keep possession and provide service throughout the match.
Japan v. Brazil, Feb. 16 @ 4pm [Orlando, FL]
Japan v. USWNT, Feb. 19 @ 3:30pm [Nashville, TN]
Japan v. Canada, Feb. 22 @ 4pm [Frisco, TX]