When the U.S. Women’s National Team returns to action its first domestic matches since qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2024 Summer Olympics at the 2022 Concacaf W Championship, it will take the field against a fellow World Cup-bound foe in Nigeria. The teams will play twice in a four-day span, squaring off first on September 3 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City (kickoff at 1:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. CT with broadcast coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET / Noon CT on FOX) followed by a September 6 meeting, presented by Allstate, at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. (6 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
Here are Five Things To Know about the Super Falcons:
NINE FOR NINE
Nigeria has qualified for its ninth consecutive Women’s World Cup, joining the United States, Brazil, Japan and Sweden as the only nations to qualify for every edition of the tournament since its inception in 1991. Germany and Norway can also join this group should they qualify out of UEFA.
Nigeria’s best result at the World Cup came in 1999 when the Super Falcons reached the quarterfinals where they fell to Brazil, 4-3, on a golden-goal in sudden victory overtime. Nigeria also made it out of the group at the 2019 World Cup in France, finishing third in Group A before falling to Germany in the Round of 16.
Nigeria has also seen some significant success at the youth international levels, finishing runner-up at both the 2010 and 2014 Under-20 FIFA Women’s World Cups. In 2014, Nigeria fell to Germany, 1-0, in extra time of the championship game. Nigerian forward Asisat Oshoala, who currently plays her club soccer for Barcelona, collected Golden Ball and Golden Boot honors as the top player and top scorer, respectively, at that tournament. Nigeria and Germany also met in the title match in 2010, a 2-0 win for the Germans. Nigeria won Group C at the recently concluded 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup but fell to the Netherlands in the quarterfinal round.
Nigeria punched its ticket to the 2023 World Cup on July 14 by advancing to the semifinals of the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, which was held from July 2-23 in Morocco.
The 11-time continental champion Super Falcons opened the tournament with an uncharacteristic loss, falling to eventual champions South Africa, 2-1, in the group stage opener. Nigeria responded with wins over Botswana (2-0) and Burundi (4-0) to finish second in Group C and advance to the knockout rounds. Nigeria defeated Cameroon 1-0 in the quarterfinal behind a second-half goal from Atletico Madrid forward Rasheedat Ajibade to clinch one of Africa’s four automatic bids to the 2023 World Cup.
In the semifinal, Nigeria fell in penalty kicks, 5-4, to hosts Morocco in front of 45,562 fans in Rabat after a 1-1 tie during regulation and overtime. Nigeria finished that game with nine players after receiving two red cards. The Super Falcons then fell in the Third-Place Match, 1-0, to Zambia to finish fourth overall at the 2022 WAFCON, the lone goal conceded in the match coming off a Nigeria own goal.
Ajibade led the Super Falcons with three goals in the tournament, followed by Uchenna Kanu while two goals. NJ/NY Gotham FC forward Ifeoma Onumomu, midfielder Peace Efih and midfielder Christy Ucheibe had a goal each for the Super Falcons. Ajibade and defender Osinachi Ohale were named to the tournament Best XI.
South Africa claimed the tournament title with a 2-1 victory over Morocco in the final. South Africa, Morocco, Zambia and Nigeria all secured their berths to Australia and New Zealand while Senegal and Cameroon will get a second chance to qualify for the World Cup at the 10-team FIFA Inter-Confederation tournament set for New Zealand in February, at which three more nations will seal places to the World Cup.
SERIES HISTORY: USA VS. NIGERIA
The USA and Nigeria are set to meet for the second time in two years, though this will be just the seventh matchup all-time between the nations and only the second such meeting in a friendly match. The first five matchups between the USA and Nigeria all came at world championship events, with four meetings at the Women’s World Cup (1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015) and one at the Olympics (2000).
Apart from a 7-1 win in the first ever meeting between the teams – which came in group play at the 1999 Women’s World Cup – and a 5-0 victory for the Americans in the 2003 World Cup group stage, the majority of the meetings between these two countries have been tightly contested. The USA defeated Nigeria, 3-1, at the 2000 Olympics and registered a pair of 1-0 group stage wins over the Super Falcons at both the 2007 and 2015 World Cups.
The most recent matchup between the two sides came on June 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas, as the teams met in the first-ever soccer match at Austin’s FC’s spectacular Q2 Stadium. Christen Press scored the first-ever goal in that venue and Lynn Williams added a score off a counterattack for the 2-0 win for the Americans. The USA out-shot Nigeria 15-7 in that match, though only six of the 23 players on this roster saw action in that 2021 match against the Super Falcons.
The USWNT has a perfect record against African opposition, defeating Nigeria six times in six meetings and South Africa twice in two games. The USWNT has kept clean sheets in each of its last six games against CAF foes.
Nigeria is coached by long-time American college coach Randy Waldrum, who is also currently the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. Waldrum was named as Nigeria’s head coach in May of 2020 and previously served as head coach for the Houston Dash in the NWSL from 2014-2017 and for the Trinidad & Tobago Women’s National Team from 2014-2016.
Waldrum also led the University of Notre Dame to two NCAA titles during his 15-year tenure in South Bend, Indiana from 1999-2013. The Texas native also did a short stint as the U.S. Under-23 WNT head coach.
Along with the American influence on the coaching staff, several of the Super Falcons recent call-ups have played – or currently play – professionally or collegiately in the United States.
Midfielder Toni Payne, who grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Duke and presented the USA at the Youth National Team levels. In fact, she was a part of the U.S. team that won the 2012 CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship, scoring two goals with two assists in that tournament and then played in all three games at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, scoring against Gambia. Payne’s younger sister Nicole, who attends West Virginia, is also on the squad and also represented the USA at various age levels.
Ifeoma Onumonu hails from Southern California and played collegiately at the University of California, Berkeley. Onumonu previously played for U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski when they were both part of the Seattle Reign organization and currently plays alongside the USA’s Midge Purce and Kristie Mewis and NJ/NY Gotham FC.
Michelle Alozie is from Apple Valley, Calif. and played college soccer at Tennessee. She currently plays for the Houston Dash and has played in six NWSL games so far this season and scored her second goal on Aug. 27 against the Washington Spirit to equalizer in stoppage time.
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