Alex Morgan, Emily Sonnett look forward to Atlanta United energy in SheBelieves Cup match


The United States women’s national team arrived at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground on Tuesday, ready to kickstart a week of training at Atlanta United’s facility in preparation for the opening match of the SheBelieves Cup Saturday, April 6 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The group held their first training session Tuesday morning, a few fields over from Atlanta United's practice. The 23-player roster for the USWNT includes Marietta native Emily Sonnett, Kennesaw native Jane Campbell and Mallory Swanson, whose husband is former Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson.

“We’re all really eager to play this game here in Atlanta because it has been so long since we’ve been here and we do have some great players who call Atlanta home or have grown up in Atlanta, so it’s great to be back here,” said veteran U.S. striker Alex Morgan.

It’s been a long time since the U.S. women’s national team has played a match in Atlanta, and the chance to see the four-time FIFA Women’s World Cup winners in soccer-centric Atlanta has generated strong interest. More than 45,000 tickets have been sold to Saturday's match, already second-highest for a friendly in U.S. Soccer history.

With the third level of Mercedes-Benz Stadium recently opened to accommodate more tickets, the match could be on track to have the highest attendance for a U.S. soccer friendly ever.

“We know the fans are going to show up and be loud and give us a lot of energy,” Morgan said. “We see that with Atlanta United every week. We want to see that on the women’s side as well. And hopefully in the future, week in and week out, with hopefully a women’s team here.”

This is the first time that a United States national team has played in the city since it was announced that Atlanta will be the new home of the U.S. Soccer Federation. They'll soon break ground on what will become the national training center for U.S. Soccer in Fayette County, roughly 20 miles from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“We’re just excited to be in Atlanta,” Morgan said. “Not only for our Atlanta girlies here on the team, but also to get 45,000 and be playing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium… we’re looking forward to it. Especially with Atlanta being U.S. Soccer’s future home.”

One of those “Atlanta girlies” is Sonnett, the 30-year-old midfielder from Marietta who was named to the SheBelieves roster. Sonnett attended Fellowship Christian School in Roswell, then went onto the University of Virginia for college. Her twin sister, Emma, stayed home and played soccer at the University of Georgia. Their parents, Sonnett said, are just 15 minutes up the road from the Training Ground.

“It’s always a great feeling,” Sonnett said of coming home. “I know we played in Atlanta a few years back, but now being able to come back. Obviously, the training facility. Our headquarters are going to be here, which is going to be awesome. That support has been incredible.”

Sonnett lists Muchacho on Memorial Drive and Little Tart in Grant Park as some of her favorite spots for coffee and food in the city. As one of two native Georgians on the roster, Sonnett has also prepped her teammates on what to expect in terms of the weather.

“I told them it’s usually hot and the pollen count is pretty high, I think they’re noticing that a little bit,” Sonnett said with a nod back to her teammates warming up behind her.

Sonnett, a member of the U.S. team that were World Cup champions in 2019, recalled being part of the city when Atlanta United was announced. Although playing professionally has made it a little difficult to make trips to visit home (her current club squad is NJ/NY Gotham FC in the NWSL), she said she’s been to two or three Atlanta United matches, including in 2021 when she joined friend and fellow U.S. international Kelley O’Hara when O’Hara hit the Golden Spike.

“Being able to come back and see that energy is I think something that we’re going to get for our game here,” Sonnett said.

The United States are the defending champions of the SheBelieves Cup. They won in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. This year's tournament features four nations among the best in the world of women's soccer: the USA, Japan, Brazil and Canada. All four teams are currently in the top 10 in the FIFA rankings. All four nations have also qualified for the Olympic Games in Paris this summer.

Saturday’s opponent for the United States is Japan. The two counties have met in several big moments, including the 2012 Olympic Final and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final. The United States won both.

“We’ve seen a lot of different ways that they could score goals,” said Morgan, who’s scored the most goals against Japan by any player in USWNT history. “We used to play them a lot more than we actually have in the last couple of years, but they’re a quality team that will challenge us. This is going to be a great opportunity for us in preparation for the Olympics.”

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The ninth annual SheBelieves Cup, presented by Visa, will commence on April 6 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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