There has been much speculation about the potential loss of national team players to a post-Olympics Victory Tour. Is this worth worrying about? With the facts available today, the short answer is “no”.
Will there be a Victory Tour?
Yes, this is a near-certainty. According the US Soccer Federation budget, a ten-game victory tour is a planned. As we see on page 57, the first two are set for September, the next two for October. Unless the US were to fail to medal, this tour is a sure thing.
Will the Victory Tour overlap the NWSL schedule?
No, it will not. The FIFA dates for international women’s friendlies, which is when an opponent would be available, are set for Sept 12-20th and October 17-25th. NWSL has a schedule break for this purpose, from Sept 12-23rd. The October FIFA dates are after the NWSL Championship Match, which is October 9th in Houston.
What about pre-Victory Tour camp?
There will not be any extended camp. According to FIFA’s policies, players are released on the Monday of the break and must return by the Wednesday after the break. Therefore, no NWSL games would be affected. However, we all know that USSF does not respect those rules for the USWNT, even though they do for the USMNT.
But we have a hint from the last time this happened – the 2015 World Cup Victory Tour. The first post-WWC victory tour match was versus Costa Rica on Sunday August 16, 2015. The Thorns played a match on Wednesday August 12th and had the full complement of healthy USWNT players. Thus the preparatory work-out was less than four days for that initial victory tour match. Bear in mind that this was seven weeks after the WWC Final. For 2016, the first Victory Tour match is about four weeks after the Olympics Final, so there should be even less need for a tune-up camp.
So are we home free?
As a team, yes. But for individual players, probably not.
With seven players working for a month at the highest level, the odds are very high that somebody will get an injury. After the 2015 World Cup, we had two Thorns out injured.
Some players may have non-Thorns events like making advertisements, appearancing (not a word, but it should be) for sponsors, meeting politicians, talking to Jimmy Kimmel, etc. While you’d hope these could be scheduled around the very few remaining Thorns matches, there is no assurance they will be.
The bottom line is that NWSL and USSF have done a respectable job minimizing the impact of the post-Olympic period. If the injury goddesses are kind, the Thorns should be fine.
By Richard Hamje