The women’s national soccer team will close out 2021 with a pair of matches this month in Australia, marking the team’s first trip to that continent in 21 years.
The U.S. is the two-time defending world champion and Australia is co-host of the next Women’s World Cup, which it will share with New Zealand in 2023. The Americans, ranked No. 1 in the world by FIFA, will play both matches against No. 11 Australia, the first in Sydney on Nov. 27 (Nov. 26 in the U.S.) and the second in Newcastle on Nov. 30.
“This trip and these games will be fantastic tests and learning opportunities,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said in a statement. “Having to deal with the travel and facing one of the best teams in the world is a great way to end the year.”
The U.S. (16-2-4 in 2021) met Australia twice during last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, playing to a scoreless draw in the final match of group play, then beating the Matildas in the bronze-medal game. The U.S. is 27-1-4 all time against Australia.
Rising vaccination rates in Australia persuaded authorities in New South Wales, the state where Sydney and Newcastle are located, to approve procedures that would allow the matches to be played. The U.S. will spend its time in Australia inside a controlled environment that will limit interactions with the wider community.
Officials in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, will begin lifting COVID-19 restrictions for vaccinated residents ahead of schedule next week. Nearly 90% of the residents in New South Wales aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated.
Earlier this week Australia lifted an 18-month ban on its residents flying overseas, allowing quarantine-free entry for fully vaccinated international travelers.