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U.S. women

Americans established as strong favorites in 2000 U.S. Cup in Portland.

By Gary Davidson

(Saturday, February 26, 2000) -- The United States women have won all six previous versions of their U.S. Cup, and this year's event should be no different.

Whereas in the past, there was always at least one world power invited, that is not the case for 2000, with Mexico, South Korea and Canada the opposition.

For the first time, the tournament will be played as two events in just one venue, May 5 and 7 at Civic Stadium in Portland. In previous years, the four-team competition was played in as many as three to six cities in a round-robin format with the U.S. inevitably playing China or Norway on the final day before a large crowd.

This time, the event will feature two semifinal matches on Friday, May 5,with championship and third-place matches two days later.

Canada will take on South Korea at 9 p.m. (ET) in one semifinal, followed by the U.S. against Mexico.

The championship match will be played May 7 at 2:30 p.m., televised by ESPN2, with the third-place game at 5 p.m.

The Americans are 18-0 in U.S. Cup play.

Both of the U.S.'s regional foes -- Mexico and Canada -- bring in newly-hired coaches - Leonardo Cuellar, who guided Mexico in 1999 Women's World Cup, and is the nation's first full-time women's coach and former Norway had coach Even Pellerud, who has taken over in Canada.

This week, U.S. coach April Heinrich's completed her staff with the appointment of three youth coaches. UCLA women's coach Jill Ellis was named to head the under-21 team, taking over from Lauren Gregg, the assistant to Tony DiCicco in the Women's World Cup who was in the running for Heinrichs' head job. Ellis is the daughter of John Ellis who Heinrichs recently appointed her top assistant with the national team.

Steve Swanson was selected as the under-18 coach. He recently left the head job at Stanford for University of Virginia, the job vacated by Heinrichs when she took the national job.

Clemson coach Tracey Leone took a leave of absence at the South Carolina school to become coach of the under-16s. Leone is also is a veteran of the national program. As Tracey Bates, she was a defender and teammate of Heinrichs on the 1991 world championship U.S. team. The two also were teammates at University of North Carolina.

All three new coaches could also serve as assistants with the full national team, as well as assisting each other on the various youth levels.

"I'm tremendously exited about the opportunity to work closely with Tracey, Steve and Jillian,"Heinrichs said. "As a group, they bring a wealth of knowledge and diverse soccer experiences. Their ability to serve as leaders and role models, as well as great coaches, will be unparalleled in the women's game and of great benefit to the many talented young women vying for spots on our youth national teams."

Gary Davidson is managing editor of SoccerTimes and can be e-mailed at info@soccertimes.com.

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