US women's national soccer team to be briefed on Zika virus

Publish date:

The U.S. women's national soccer team was set to be briefed Tuesday night on the developing Zika virus crisis in Latin America, a day before opening the region's Olympic qualification tournament in Texas.

The 2016 Olympics are scheduled for Aug. 5-21 in Brazil, where the Zika virus is spreading rapidly. Speaking at a news conference in advance of the U.S. team's tournament opener against Costa Rica, coach Jill Ellis said there have been ''constant conversations behind the scenes'' about the virus.

''I think at this point the focus is certainly we want to not distract from the performance piece. We haven't qualified, so talking about Rio right now for me is not something that's in my scope,'' Ellis said. ''But I think we're certainly sensitive to the fact that this has become a global issue.''

Goalkeeper Hope Solo said in an interview with Sports Illustrated published Tuesday that she was concerned about the virus. Solo, who spoke about the possibility of someday having a child, told that if the Olympics were today, she wouldn't go.

The Zika virus has spread throughout Latin America via mosquitoes. While most people experience either mild or no symptoms, Zika is suspected of causing microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head. Pregnant Americans are urged to avoid travel to affected areas.

Rio organizers have tried to calm fears that the Olympics may be affected, saying there is only a risk to pregnant women and the games will not be canceled. The games will also be held in Brazil's winter, when colder temperatures should reduce the mosquito population.

The International Olympic Committee has expressed confidence in measures being taken against the virus in Brazil and is following the advice of the World Health Organization. The IOC has distributed the guidance to all national Olympic committees.

Asked if he was concerned for his team, Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar said Tuesday he trusted that international health officials would provide the procedures to keep athletes safe.

''I think medicine has advanced in so many ways to prevent things. We're confident it's not going to be a problem,'' Cuellar said. ''We haven't thought about it until you mentioned that because we have to be there first.''

Mexico is among the eight teams playing in the tournament for the North and Central America and Caribbean region. The tournament's championship game is set for Feb. 21 in Houston.

The top two teams will earn Olympic berths. The United States, ranked No. 1 in the world, has won the gold medal in the last three Olympics.


AP Freelancer Jeff Miller in Dallas contributed to this report.