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US women’s national soccer team prepares for World Cup in Columbus

The U.S. women’s national soccer team will be competing in an exhibition match against Japan on Saturday at Crew Stadium in preparation for the 2011 FIFA World Cup.

This game will be the first of a two-game series against Japan, a fellow Women’s Cup qualifying team, to begin training for the 2011 World Cup which will take place in Germany starting June 26.

Before their competition at Crew Stadium, the U.S. women’s national team held several of their practices at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, on Ohio State’s Campus.

“It is a thrill, obviously, to share our facility,” said Lori Walker, Ohio State women’s soccer coach. “We are very proud of the quality of our stadium, and to have the women’s team here to train is a great honor.”

The last time the U.S. women’s team played in Crew Stadium was in preparation for the 2003 World Cup.

“All of the venues we play at are pretty much the same, but I think the facilities (at Crew Stadium) are great, and I love the fact that I’m back at home,” said Heather Mitts, first Ohio representative of and defender for the U.S. World Cup team. “It’s great to be here.”

After Saturday’s match, the game-worn jerseys from all 21 women on the U.S. roster will be washed, autographed and donated to an Internet auction, the proceeds from which will benefit Japanese Tsunami victims.

The Japanese women’s national team also is in the U.S., preparing for its World Cup run. These will be the first international games the squad has played since the devastation caused by the tsunami.

“We had these games scheduled before the tsunami, but we hadn’t released them. So once the tsunami hit, then of course you start thinking about, ‘What can we do for the Japanese? Can we do anything?’ So we decided to do the online auction, a moment of silence before each game and create a banner that both teams will hold before the game,” said Aaron Heifetz, press secretary for the U.S. women’s national team.

The U.S. players just finished a three-week training session in Florida, and feel they are ready to take on Japan in this weekend’s competition.

“Every time we play (Japan) it is definitely a tough match for us — I think they are one of the best teams in the world,” Mitts said. “They are very technical; they are great with the ball, and it’s fun soccer to watch. You always have to be at the top of your game.”

The second match between the U.S. and Japan will be held May 18 in Cary, N.C., and the team’s last game before departing for the World Cup will be against Mexico on June 5 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

Saturday’s match is set to kick off at 6:30 p.m.

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