Update (7/24/18): The third-place game of the ICC will be streamed live on NWSLsoccer.com and the NWSL app (July 29 at 6:15 p.m. ET). The final will be broadcast on ESPN2 (July 29 at 9 p.m. ET).
The players of the North Carolina Courage never seem to take their feet off the gas pedal. The Courage sit at the top of the NWSL standings with a 14-1-3 (45 points) overall record and have already earned a spot in the 2018 NWSL postseason.
The Courage are cruising, and while most of the rest of the league takes a week off for the international break, Paul Riley’s squad will be participating in the first women’s International Champions Cup in Miami, Florida.
The Courage will be joined by three of the top teams in the world: Manchester City, Paris-Saint Germain and five-time UEFA Champions League winner Olympique Lyonnais. All of the matches will be played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami with semifinal matches on July 26 followed by a third-place match and final on July 29.
While several Courage players will be off on international duty thanks to the Tournament of Nations, the team has been buzzing with the excitement for the ICC since their participation was announced.
“This is going in history books! Are you kidding me? Of course we’re excited!” Courage forward Jess McDonald told NWSL Media. McDonald has scored six goals this season and chipped in four assists so far this NWSL regular season, and she’ll be one of the veteran players leading the offense in Miami.
The Courage have gone back to their scoring ways in 2018. They’ve put up 41 goals so far this season, with a goal differential of +27, and have outscored their opponents 17-2 since dropping their only loss of the year. Playing — and better yet, winning — on an international stage is something Courage midfielder McCall Zerboni shows up for. While Zerboni won’t be on the pitch in Miami with her team because of her recent U.S. women’s national team call-up, she spoke for the Courage when she said, “This is the start of something really special.
“I’m really glad that we were chosen to be a part of it. It’s a major honor and it will kind of put us in measurement and on the map in comparison to the other clubs.”
Midfielder Heather O’Reilly, who recently joined the Courage from Arsenal Women, has expressed her excitement about the tournament on social media.
Super excited about this! This is a very positive step for women’s club football across the world. Cannot wait to take on PSG. Get your tickets and see you in Miami! https://t.co/jMZ0J6woXk
— Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly) July 11, 2018
The Courage could meet familiar faces at the tournament, specifically players like Amandine Henry and Nadia Nadim who previously played in the NWSL. Henry, a midfielder with Lyon, and Nadim, a forward with Manchester City, both played for Portland Thorns FC and were a part of their 2017 NWSL Championship-winning side.
Another player in the tournament has some connections to North Carolina – Lyon and English defender Lucy Bronze. Bronze played in North Carolina for the Tar Heels under Anson Dorrance, and won the NCAA tournament in 2009 alongside Courage players Jess McDonald and Merritt Mathias.
While the Courage send off six of their players to the Tournament of Nations to represent the USWNT (Abby Dahlkemper, Mathias, Jaelene Hinkle, Samantha Mewis, Zerboni and Crystal Dunn) the squad will be fully equipped to take on the world’s best clubs.
Forward Lynn Williams has scored eight goals this season for a league second-best. She recently grabbed NWSL Week 16 Player of the Week honors after scoring a hat trick to give the Courage their 14th win of the season, plus clinching a berth to the 2018 NWSL Championship. The front line also has options in McDonald, Kristen Hamilton, who has three goals and four assists this season, and rookie Darian Jenkins, who has subbed in to play 12 games for the Courage this year. Down the field, the depth continues with Denise O’Sullivan consistently showing up and creating chances for her side and the addition of O’Reilly to the squad.
— International Champions Cup Women's Tournament (@iccwomen) July 16, 2018
Defensively, Abby Erceg and goalkeepers Katelyn Rowland and Sabrina D’Angelo have led the Courage to eight shutouts and held opposing teams to only 14 goals. Rowland has played the majority of the Courage’s games (12) and has earned four shutouts, made 35 saves and allowed just 11 goals.
Erceg is fourth in the league in successful passes (666) and sixth in the league in clearances (74). The centerback has played every minute of all 18 Courage games this season, tying her for the most minutes played so far this season (1620 minutes). Not to be forgotten, Erceg has also chipped in two goals this year.
Their motto is accurate — there is “No Finish Line” when it comes to the North Carolina Courage. Whether the team is making league history, breaking records individually and as a team, or representing the NWSL on a world stage, there is no end in sight.
The next test? A chance to measure up against the best at the International Champions Cup.
ICC Schedule and broadcast info
Thursday, July 26
North Carolina Courage vs. Paris Saint-Germain (6:15 p.m. ET)
Olympique Lyonnais vs. Manchester City (9 p.m. ET)
Sunday, July 29
Third place game (6:15 p.m. ET on NWSLsoccer.com and the NWSL app)
Final (9 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
On July 24, the Courage announced their official roster for the tournament:
Goalkeepers (2): Sabrina D’Angelo and Katelyn Rowland
Defenders (9): Abby Erceg, Tori Hansen, Jaelene Hinkle, Carlin Hudson, Yuri Kawamura, Kaleigh Kurtz, Morgan Reid, Cari Roccaro and Ryan Williams
Midfielders (6): Julia Aronov, Elizabeth Eddy, Heather O’Reilly, Denise O’Sullivan, Meredith Speck and Sarah Teegarden
Forwards (4): Darian Jenkins, Kristen Hamilton, Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams