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Christie Rampone, Abby Wambach lead U.S. women at Algarve Cup in Portugal

February 21, 2011 |  4:48 pm

Rampone_300 With only four months to go before its first game in the Women's World Cup, the U.S. women's national team arrived in Portugal over the weekend and is settling into its camp ahead of the 18th annual Algarve Cup tournament.

Coach Pia Sundhage's side will play Japan on March 2, Norway on March 4 and Finland on March 7, as well as a placement game on March 9, possibly the final. The team's first two games will be played in Vila real de San Antonio, near the Portuguese-Spanish border.

The U.S. has won the tournament seven times and has finished as runner-up twice. It is 42-9-8 all-time in the event that annually attracts some of the world's best women's teams. Four of this year's 12 participants will be going to the World Cup.

Sundhage's roster includes most, if not all, of the players she will take to Germany for the June 26-July 17 World Cup. They include veteran defender Christie Rampone, who has played 229 games for the U.S. since making her national team debut in 1997, and forward Abby Wambach, whose next game will be her 150th for the women's national team, making her only the 14th player to achieve that mark.

Wambach has scored 15 Algarve Cup goals, tying her with Sweden's Hanna Ljungberg for the all-time lead.

The tournament will be the final competitive event for the U.S. before the World Cup, although the team will play England in London on April 2 and some other friendly internationals at home before leaving for Germany. It plays North Korea, Colombia and Sweden in the first round of the World Cup.

--Grahame L. Jones

Photo: U.S. national team veteran Christie Rampone at practice last fall. Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press