The Thorns face the very real possibility of beginning the 2015 NWSL season without the likes of Nadine Angerer (GER), Alex Morgan (USA), Christine Sinclair(CAN), Stephanie Catley (AUS), Tobin Heath (USA), among others as their national team's prepare for the 2015 Women's World Cup, taking place from June 6-July 5 in Canada.
Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Allie Long, and Rachel Van Hollebeke have all been called into the United States Women's National Team training camp for the next several weeks,which will be followed by friendlies in France and England in February, which are currently the only matches announced by the United States Soccer Federation.
To gain a better idea of how the United States have conducted business during World Cup years in the past, we look to the schedule from January 2011 to June 2011, when the 2011 Women's World Cup was hosted by Germany.
In 2011, the USWNT played a total of 11 matches over this time, including participation in the Four Nations Tournament and Algarve Cup, as well as four friendlies during this time, with matches in each month except February.
The only confirmed dates on the calendar are friendlies on February 8 in France and February 13 in England. They will also participate in the Algarve Cup from March 4-11 in Portugal, though match dates and opponents have yet to be announced.
The United States will also reportedly face Mexico on May 17 in Los Angeles, but this has yet to be officially announced by either federation.
Despite having off years at both the club and international level, Sinclair will undoubtedly feature prominently for her national side, which is not only hosting the Women's World Cup, but also the 2015 Pan-American Games in July as well.
Canada's busy schedule begins this month, when they travel to China to participate in the Four Nations Cup in Shenzen, facing South Korea in January 11, Mexico on January 13, and China on January 15. They are also confirmed to participate in the Cyprus Cup from March 4-11. The 2015 Pan-American Games will be hosted in Toronto and runs from July 11-26, meaning there is a chance the Thorns could be without Sinclair nearly all season.
Chicago Red Stars and Canadian international Melissa Tancedi all but confirmed that the Canadian contingent will not be participating with their NWSL sides prior to the World Cup, as reported by The Equalizer in mid-December, though nothing has been officially announced by either the Canadian Soccer Association or NWSL.
Whether Jackie Acevedo remains a member of the Thorns remains to be seen, considering her lack of playing time last season.
Mexico opens the year by participating in the Women's International Tournament from January 11-15 and will also participate in the Cyprus Cup from March 4-11. Additionally, Mexico will participate in the Pan-American Games in Toronto in July.
Nadine Angerer's German side has no officially scheduled friendlies at this point, though they are confirmed participants of the Algarve Cup in March.
Catley's Australian also has no friendlies currently scheduled, though they are participating in the Cyprus Cup in March.
FIFA International Windows
FIFA has reserved four official windows for international competition between January and June: January 10-15, February 7-12, March 4-11, and April 4-9.
Canada and Mexico have confirmed dates in the January and March windows, while the United States have matches currently scheduled during the February and March windows. Germany and Australia have only scheduled matches during the March window.
It is likely that all of the Federations will be announcing international friendlies in the upcoming months for the April window and possibly for May as well, despite the lack of official FIFA reserved dates.
When the NWSL announced the schedule format, they stated "The National Team players will begin the season with their respective National Teams, but will participate in the first three to four NWSL matches before the start of the Women's World Cup. In total, National Team players will be expected to miss 7-8 games compared to three games in 2014."
Looking at the FIFA reserved dates, and if the NWSL follows the schedule they set out, then the Thorns should at least have their North American-based internationals from mid-April to mid-May, depending on when they open camp prior to the World Cup.
How the Thorns handle the loss of their internationals? What roster options will the NWSL make available to its member teams? Will the rosters be allowed to expand?
We don't know the answer to these questions at the moment, but we will continue to look at the possibilities as we continue this series tomorrow, when we look at the current state of the Thorns' roster without their internationals.