Courage fans will wait more than a month to see World Cup champs again on home turf ::

Courage fans will wait more than a month to see World Cup champs again on home turf ::

— It’s a busy week for the four members of the North Carolina Courage who are part of the U.S. national team that won the FIFA Women’s World Cup last Sunday. The media appearances began Tuesday, there’s a ticker tape parade in New York City Wednesday morning, and then the team will hop a plane to Los Angeles to appear at the ESPY Awards Wednesday night.

Sam Mewis, Abby Dahlkempber, Crystal Dunn and Jessica McDonald will finally make their way back to North Carolina beginning this weekend and into early next week. Local media availability for the four players is being planned. But while they’ll soon return to play for the Courage, home fans yearning to see their World Cup heroes play at WakeMed Soccer Park will have to wait a while.

The Courage play at home this Saturday, July 13 against Reign FC, but the U.S. national team players aren’t available for NWSL play this weekend. Once the Courage’s four U.S. national team players return, the team’s next two matches are on the road: July 21 at Chicago and July 27 at Utah. Both of those games will be televised (on ESPN2 and ESPNews, respectively) as part of the NWSL’s new match-of-the-week broadcast deal with ESPN.

North Carolina’s next home match is Friday, August 2 against the Washington Spirit. However, on Tuesday, U.S. Soccer announced a five-match “Victory Tour” for the U.S. national team that begins Aug. 3 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. when the USA will play the Republic of Ireland. That means Mewis, Dahlkempber, Dunn and McDonald will not be available to play for the Courage on Aug. 2. While Courage midfielder Denise O’Sullivan is a regular member of the Ireland national team, Courage manager Paul Riley says he anticipates O’Sullivan will remain with the Courage and won’t participate in the opening Victory Tour match.

The Courage then travel to Portland on Sunday, Aug. 11, a game that will also be shown on ESPNews. That means the first opportunity Courage fans will have to watch their four U.S. national team players at Sahlen’s Stadium will be the opening of the Women’s International Champions Cup on Aug. 15, 39 days after the Women’s World Cup final. The Courage’s first NWSL home game following the return of their U.S. players will be Saturday, Aug. 24 against Reign FC.

From the date the U.S. national team players return to their respective NWSL teams in July until they depart again for the Aug. 3 Victory Tour match, every NWSL team has a home match on its schedule except the NC Courage. The remaining four Victory Tour matches will be played in late August, early September and early October during designated FIFA international breaks that don’t conflict with the NWSL schedule.

The 2019 Victory Tour is not only a sizable revenue generator for U.S. Soccer, but it’s also a significant source of income for the U.S players, who stand to receive bonuses for their participation in the Victory Tour of $60,000-$75,000 per player.

The 2019 series seeks to rectify many of the missteps made during the U.S. national team’s Victory Tour following their 2015 World Cup win, a 10-match slog that wreaked havoc with the NWSL calendar and extended deep into December, including a cancelled match in Hawaii due to substandard field conditions. Still, it was anticipated that a shorter 2019 Victory Tour would not conflict with existing NWSL games. The Aug. 3 match conflicts with at least four NWSL matches. Moreover, it means North Carolina Courage fans will have to stay content watching their four U.S. stars on TV for a while longer.

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