By Brian Trusdell | March 01, 2018, 3:10 p.m. (ET)
Lynn Williams celebrates her goal with Morgan Brian and Christen Press against Germany in the second half of the SheBelieves Cup on March 1, 2017 in Chester, Pa.

 

The third edition of the SheBelieves Cup begins tonight in Columbus, Ohio, and the U.S. women’s national soccer team is looking for redemption after finishing fourth last year.

The Americans open play against Germany in the second game of a doubleheader, following the opener between the national teams of France and England. The United States also will play France 

 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, and England on March 7 in Orlando.

Here are five things to know about the tournament:

 

What Is The SheBelieves Cup?

The SheBelieves Cup is a four-team tournament played in the United States featuring Team USA and three other national teams: Germany, England and France. This is the third year for the tournament. It started in 2016 as a preparation event heading into the Olympics later that year. The tournament is played in a series of three doubleheaders in three different cities: Columbus on Thursday, Harrison on Sunday and Orlando next Wednesday. Each team will play the others for a total of three matches, with the winner determined on three points for a win and one for a draw. The tournament is part of the SheBelieves campaign meant to inspire girls and young women that the USWNT launched after its 2015 World Cup win.

 

What’s At Stake For Team USA?

The SheBelieves Cup is an opportunity for the U.S. to test itself against three of the world’s top teams. In 2016, the U.S. won the inaugural SheBelieves Cup as the first step in its final phase of preparation for that year’s Olympics in Rio. The tournament will have a similar role this year in that the U.S. will play in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship in October in a country yet to be determined. That event will be the qualifier for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. The top three teams from the CONCACAF Championship will qualify for the World Cup. The fourth-placed team will enter a playoff against a team from South America for another berth.

 

Who Are The Americans To Watch?

Coach Jill Ellis is bringing her biggest stars to the tournament, including 2015 World Cup champions Julie Ertz, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.

The roles will be reversed for the Ertz family, as this time Julie Ertz will take a starring role in the midfield for Team USA. Last month, Ertz was highlighted in the crowd while cheering on her husband, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, at the Super Bowl. Julie Ertz began her national team career as a defender but has moved into the midfield. She was selected U.S. Female Soccer Player of the Year by U.S. Soccer in 2017. Ertz was second on the team in scoring last year with six goals and has scored a goal in each of Team USA’s last two matches.

Morgan led Team USA in scoring last year with seven goals in 14 games and also has scored in each of the squad’s last two matches. She was selected as the CONCACAF Women’s Player of the Year in 2017.

Meanwhile, Lloyd, the two-time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, has played the most international games on the roster with 247 and is two goals shy of becoming the sixth player in Team USA history to score 100 goals in her career.

The tournament could also serve as an opportunity for young players, including forward Savannah McCaskill and defender Tierna Davidson, who are both on a U.S. tournament roster for the first time.

 

How Do The Other Teams Stack Up?

Germany, England and France are among the top six teams in FIFA’s monthly rankings behind the top-ranked Americans. The three teams played in each of the first two SheBelieves Cups. The second-ranked Germans are the reigning Olympic champions and have won the Women’s World Cup twice (2003, 2007) and finished fourth in 2015. They have won the European championship eight times, although they only reached the quarterfinals last year.

No. 3 England has never won a major title but reached the semifinals of last year’s European championship and finished third at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. The team doesn’t participate as a team in the Olympics, since the country isn’t recognized as a sovereign nation. However, English players did participate as part of the British national team in the 2012 Olympics in London and reached the quarterfinals. England beat Team USA 1-0 in last year’s SheBelieves Cup.

The sixth-ranked French are the defending SheBelieves champions after beating Team USA 3-0 in last year’s finale. Its best finish in any major tournament was fourth place in the 2011 Women’s World Cup and 2012 Olympics. France reached the quarterfinals at the 2015 Women’s World Cup and again at the 2016 Olympics.

 

Where Does Team USA Go From Here?

The biggest tournament on this year’s calendar is October’s CONCACAF Women’s Championship, known for a few years as the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup. It will determine if Team USA goes to the World Cup in 2019. Team USA has won seven of the nine CONCACAF titles. The only years it didn’t win the title were in 1998, when it didn’t participate because it already had qualified for the 1999 Women’s World Cup as host, and 2010, when it was upset by Mexico in the semifinals. After the SheBelieves Cup, Team USA will play Mexico in a pair of friendlies, on April 5 in Jacksonville, Florida, and April 8 in Houston.

 Brian Trusdell has covered four FIFA World Cups and six Olympic Games during his more than 30 years as a sportswriter, mostly with the Associated Press and Bloomberg News. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.