SEATTLE — It seemed a bit of a bland name, this Tournament of Nations. It felt obvious, one step better than calling it the tournament of teams. It felt far more fitting by the end of the night.
By the time the final whistle blew on Australia’s 1-0 win against the United States, the first victory for the Matildas in 28 meetings between the teams secured when Tameka Butt slipped the ball past goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher in the 67th minute, the name felt downright eloquent.
This is a tournament of nations. These days, there are far more nations that matter in women’s soccer. And far more of them are capable of beating the United States than ever before.
Like Brazil and Japan, the other teams in the tournament, Australia is now on that list — which is both why the United States is trying to remake itself and why that is proving so difficult.
“I think any team in the top 10 or 12 of women’s football can all beat each other now,” Australia coach Alen Stajcic said after his team, ranked seventh in the world, proved just that.
Just as England and France proved on American soil earlier this year in the SheBelieves Cup.
This is, believe it or not, what U.S. coach Jill Ellis wanted out of this year. Well, not the third loss by shutout, but the competition. The year after the Olympics used to be a quiet one for the U.S. women, no major tournaments or qualifying events to worry about. Four years ago, for example, they barely took the field during the summer. They certainly didn’t play three top-10 opponents in eight days. But Ellis said here in Seattle this week that it was important not to fall behind as other teams benefited from the competition of the European Championship now being played in the Netherlands.
So the Tournament of Nations was added to a schedule that already included the…