By Anne M. Peterson
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The U.S. women’s soccer team will play matches in Europe against France and England in February as part of the team’s preparation for the 2015 World Cup.
The United States will play France on Feb. 8 at the Stade du Moustoir in the city of Lorient, before playing England on Feb. 13. The venue for the second match has not been set.
The announcement comes as the team prepares to leave Friday for the International Tournament of Brasilia, which will be held at the National Stadium Mane Garrincha, one of the sites for this year’s men’s World Cup.
The Americans will face China on Dec. 10, Brazil four days later and Argentina on Dec. 17. The championship and third-place game will be Dec. 21.
The top-ranked U.S. team qualified for the World Cup at the North and Central American and Caribbean women’s championship in October. The draw for soccer’s premier event, which will be played in six Canadian cities in June and July, is set for Saturday in Ottawa.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis will announce her roster for Brazil on Friday prior to the team’s departure.
The U.S. women will be playing in Brazil for the first time since 1997. Brazil is ranked sixth, China 14th and Argentina 37th.
The United States played fourth-ranked France twice in June: a 1-0 victory in Tampa, Florida, and a 2-2 draw in East Hartford, Connecticut. The Americans last played seventh-ranked England in 2011 and lost 2-1.
“These games are exactly what we need,” Ellis said in a statement. “Our goal leading up to the World Cup is to play some of the best teams. These are two opponents that will test us and certainly two teams we could meet in Canada. Both teams are exceptionally well-organized, have a high level of athleticism and will pose some excellent challenges.”