There were two major announcements today regarding the U.S. women's national team's upcoming qualification tournament for this summer's Olympics.
The first was the roster. All the big names from the World Cup are on the team, including Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and Alex Morgan. The Independence are represented by Amy Rodriguez and Gilbertsville, Pa., native Nicole Barnhart, and the 76ers are represented by Jrue Holiday's girlfriend, Lauren Cheney.
(I didn't know that the two UCLA products have been dating until last week. Apparently it has been out there for some time.)
Delran, N.J., native Carli Lloyd also makes the cut, as did the top pick in last week's Women's Professional Soccer draft, Sydney Leroux.
Here is the full roster. Although many players are listed as being out of contract, it's safe to say that all but Wambach and Solo will have WPS teams by the time the season starts.
Goalkeepers (2): Nicole Barnhart (out of contract), Hope Solo (out of contract)
Defenders (7): Rachel Buehler (Atlanta Beat), Ali Krieger (FFC Frankfurt), Amy LePeilbet (Atlanta Beat), Heather Mitts (out of contract), Kelley O'Hara (Atlanta Beat), Christie Rampone (out of contract), Becky Sauerbrunn (Sky Blue FC)
Midfielders (7): Shannon Boxx (out of contract), Tobin Heath (out of contract), Lori Lindsey (Western New York Flash), Carli Lloyd (Atlanta Beat), Heather O'Reilly (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (out of contract), Amy Rodriguez (out of contract)
Forwards (4): Lauren Cheney (out of contract), Sydney Leroux (Atlanta beat), Alex Morgan (Western New York Flash), Abby Wambach (out of contract)
Now for the other big news: Universal Sports announced today that games involving the United States in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament will be streamed online free of charge at UniversalSports.com.
The broadcast team for both TV and online will include two familiar names, Glenn Davis and Brandi Chastain. Coverage will include pre-game, halftime and post-game shows.
We already knew that the U.S. games will air on Universal Sports, but the channel isn't as widely available anymore as it used to be. As of January 2, it is no longer distributed over-the-air by NBC, in order to get the channel on more cable networks.
Before January 2, you could watch the channel on an alternate digital feed from some local NBC affiliates. In Philadelphia, it was on WCAU's digital channel 10.3.
As far as I can tell, the only way to get Universal Sports on TV in the Philadelphia area right now is by DirecTV. You might think initially that Comcast would get an NBC-affiliated channel on its cable systems right away, but NBC Universal actually has only a minority share of the operation.
So the free online streaming will come in very handy.
If you want to watch games not involving the United States, you'll be able to do so free of charge on Telemundo's website. Although the site is in Spanish, the feed does not have any commentary.
Here's the full schedule of games for the tournament. All games will be played under the retractable roof at BC Place in Vancouver, starting Thursday night. Times listed below are Eastern:
8:00 p.m.: Costa Rica vs. Cuba, CONCACAF.com
10:30 p.m.: Canada vs. Haiti, CONCACAF.com
8:00 p.m.: Mexico vs, Guatemala, CONCACAF.com
10:30 p.m.: United States vs. Dominican Republic, Universal Sports/UniversalSports.com
8:00 p.m.: Haiti vs. Costa Rica, CONCACAF.com
10:30 p.m.: Canada vs. Cuba, CONCACAF.com
As an aside, on that same night at 9 p.m. Eastern, the U.S. men's team plays Venezuela in Glendale, Arizona. That game will be broadcast on ESPN3.com and Galavisón.
5:00 p.m.: Mexico vs. Dominican Republic, CONCACAF.com
7:30 p.m.: United States vs. Guatemala, Universal Sports/UniversalSports.com
8:00 p.m.: Cuba vs. Haiti, CONCACAF.com
10:30 p.m.: Canada vs. Costa Rica, CONCACAF.com
8:00 p.m.: Guatemala vs. Dominican Republic, CONCACAF.com
10:30 p.m.: United States vs. Mexico, Universal Sports/UniversalSports.com
The U.S.-Mexico clash is by far the biggest game of the group stage. The winner will almost surely finish first in Group A, and thus avoid host Canada in the semifinals.
8:00 p.m.: Group B winner vs. Group A winner
11:00 p.m.: Group A winner vs. Group B winner
Universal Sports and UniversalSports.com will broadcast the game involving the United States. I can't help wondering, though, if the game will be switched to the NBC Sports Network if there's space for it.
Because both finalists qualify for the Olympics, the semifinal game is the most important one. We'll see what happens.
8:00 p.m.: Championship game, NBC Sports Network