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USWNT’s Upcoming Friendlies vs. Nigeria Latest Chapter in Banner Year For Women’s Game

While the Major League Soccer and NWSL seasons barrel toward their respective playoffs as the Labor Day holiday approaches, this weekend, much of the latter organization goes on hiatus, but the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) is not going on vacation.

On Saturday, while most sports fans inside the United States will be watching the first full day of the college football season, other sports fans will be watching association football, as the USWNT heads to Kansas City for the first of two international friendlies in four days against Nigeria, before trekking to Washington, DC on Tuesday evening (6 pm ET/ 3 pm PT, ESPN2.)

These two games, beginning Saturday (1:30 pm ET/ 10:30 am PT on FOX) mark the latest chapter written in a banner year for women"s soccer in this country.

US Soccer Re-Elects Cindy Parlow Cone as President in March Thanks to USWNT Backing

Before discussing the matches at hand, we first have to go back in time approximately six months to March 5 of this year, when the US Soccer Federation‘s Annual General Meeting was held in Atlanta.

During this time, the federation held its presidential election as part of its National Council Meeting, where incumbent US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone was challenged by Carlos Cordeiro, who resigned from his post as the head of US Soccer upon backlash received after court filings in an income inequality suit contained sexist terms.

Cone, who initially took over for Cordeiro as US Soccer President from Cordeiro in March of 2020, proved successful in her re-election bid, taking 52.9 percent of the vote to Cordeiro"s 47.1 percent.

The work to better the women"s game in the United States had already begun, however.

NWSL CBA Agreed Upon in February, Signed in April

Fast-forward to April 29, when the 10th anniversary season of the National Women"s Soccer League began with a nationally-televised match on CBS Sports Network between expansion club Angel City FC and the North Carolina Courage in the former"s first-ever regular season game.

Under any circumstance, opening day of a new season in a sports league is cause enough for celebration in and of itself, but this opening day marked a momentous occasion.

Back in February, weeks before Cindy Parlow Cone was re-elected as US Soccer President, the NWSL and its players" association came to terms on a five-year collective bargaining agreement, the first of its kind between the league and union since the NWSL began to play in 2013.

Ahead of the regular season"s opening match on April 29, this CBA was officially signed on live television by NWSLPA Executive Director Meghann Burke and NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman.

US Soccer Agrees to Concurrent CBAs in May

Less than a month after the NWSL and its players agreed to the five-year CBA, US Soccer, along with both the USMNT and the USWNT, accepted simultaneous collective bargaining agreements on May 18.

The main sticking point on these CBAs was the fact that wage equality was finally realized between the men"s and women"s national teams, who will now receive the same level of prize money across all tournaments and international friendlies, including the upcoming World Cups.

Megan Rapinoe Talks About Labor Pact

After the labor spat was resolved back in the spring, USWNT midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who championed the fight for wage equality among her colleagues on the national team, weighed in on the concurrent CBAs.

“I am incredibly proud of this team and the commitment we have shown throughout this process," Rapinoe said. “While I think there is still much progress to be made for us and for women to move broadly, I think the [Women"s National Team Players" Association] should be very proud of this deal and feel empowered moving forward."

These concurrent agreements will be signed after the conclusion of Tuesday"s match in Washington.

USWNT Unbeaten Thus Far in 2022, Qualifying For Olympics and Women"s World Cup

Meanwhile, both before and after scoring major victories on the business side of soccer, the USWNT has continued to assert its dominance on the pitch this year, heading into the friendlies against Nigeria this week with an 11-0-1 record across all competitions while tallying 46 goals in the 12 previous matches.

The lone draw this year for the Americans came in the first match during the SheBelieves Cup on Feb. 17, when the USWNT played to a 0-0 stalemate against the Czech Republic before scoring 10 unanswered goals, including three own goals from New Zealand goalkeeper Mekayla Moore on Feb. 20, in the remaining two games to take the championship.

Earlier this summer, upon winning four international friendlies in the aftermath of the SheBelieves Cup, it was crunch time for the Americans, who entered the CONCACAF W Championship looking to qualify for the FIFA Women"s World Cup for the ninth straight tournament and the 2024 Summer Olympics.

On July 7, after the USWNT posted a 5-0 shutout against Jamaica, the Americans were aided by a 3-0 victory by Haiti versus Mexico, booking their place in next year"s tournament, but the work wasn"t done from there, clinching an Olympics berth on July 19 thanks to a 78th-minute tally by striker and team captain Alex Morgan, beating Canada 1-0.

USWNT Returns To Action Versus Nigeria

With the USWNT"s summer plans for the next two years confirmed, they still have some business to take care of before this summer ends, Saturday and Tuesday"s friendlies against Nigeria.

Last week, it was confirmed that Rapinoe, Morgan and midfielder Lindsey Horan would be among the players to feature in the roster which was nearly identical to the one used in the CONCACAF W Championship, but earlier this week, a change was made.

Forward Trinity Rodman, daughter of NBA legend Dennis Rodman, was excused from USWNT training camp ahead of the matches against Nigeria to tend to family matters.

Racing Louisville FC midfielder Savannah DeMelo, a rookie out of The University of Southern California in Los Angeles who"s scored three goals in NWSL play this season after tallying 17 goals for USC over four years, was called up to the September roster on Monday.

Final Thoughts on the Matches Ahead and the USWNT

On paper, these next two games look like they"re easily winnable affairs for the Americans, and why not?

The USWNT has achieved the No. 1 ranking in FIFA during every period over the last five years in succession for a reason: They"ve proven time and again that they"re next to unbeatable.

Speaking of being unbeatable, these upcoming matches are on American soil, where the national team has gone undefeated in 69 consecutive matches entering Saturday (62 wins and seven draws.)

When this team has the home fans in full throat, as will be the case on Saturday and Tuesday, the 12th-man advantage is in full effect.

At the same time, however, although Nigeria currently ranks No. 46 among women"s national teams in FIFA, they"ve won two out of their last three matches ahead of these upcoming games.

While the USWNT is easy to criticize (there is a multitude of reasons to criticize them, none of which are relevant to discuss here,) they really shouldn"t be.

When a team in any sport has been shown and proven to be the best of the class, all negative criticism about the team should be thrown out the window.

What do you think about the USWNT"s chances this coming week? Let us know in the comments.

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