Japan, U.S. women to play matches

Updated: March 17, 2011, 1:12 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Japanese women's soccer team will play two exhibition games against the United States to prepare for the World Cup.

The teams will play May 14 in Columbus, Ohio, and May 18 at Cary, N.C., the U.S. Soccer Federation said Thursday.

USSF spokesman Neil Buethe said planning for the matches started before the earthquake that struck Japan last week.

"Our entire team and staff have great sympathy for the people of Japan following the tragedies that struck their country and we are looking forward to hosting the team here in the United States," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "We have tremendous respect for the Japanese players, for the way they play the game and for the heart they show on the field, and we will be expecting two excellent matches."

The U.S. defeated Japan 2-1 on March 2 at the Algarve Cup in Portugal. The Americans next play April 2 at England.

At the World Cup in Germany, the Americans open against North Korea on June 28, then play Colombia on July 2 and Sweden on July 6.

Japan plays New Zealand on June 27, Mexico on July 1 and England on July 5.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press