For the Football Ferns, the ''pre-season'' part of their Women's World Cup preparations begins today against the United States.
The Ferns' buildup over the 18 months has been less than ideal, with the resignation of former coach Tony Readings, followed by the turbulent tenure of Andreas Heraf.
New head coach Tom Sermanni was appointed in October last year, and has been battling the clock ever since.
"We are still behind a lot of the teams that have had a lot more settled preparations," said Sermanni.
"This is the start of what we are calling pre-season and June 11 is the first game of the season. Between now and then is a really concentrated period of time with the players and we can be ready and well prepared for the World Cup."
Despite the short time frame, there have been encouraging signs, highlighted by the 1-0 win over Norway last month, their first win over a higher ranked nation in almost four years.
The squad has a blend of vast experience – with a number of players having two or three World Cups behind them – and some exciting youngsters. The American side remains the bench mark in women's football. They are the reigning world champions (to go with victories in 1991 and 1999) and have claimed Olympic gold on four separate occasions.
"It gives us an opportunity to see what we need to do," said Sermanni. "It will be a litmus test as to where we are at in the stage of our preparation. You don't find that out until you play competitive games, particularly against teams of the quality of the USA.'' New Zealand have beaten Team USA only once (a 1-0 victory in Taipei in 1987), and have endured some one-sided results.
"It gives us an idea of where the best team in the world is and how we compare against them," said Sermanni. "The result of this game is not going to be a definitive point for us.
It's just part of our preparation."
Captain Ali Riley will play her 124th full international after making her senior debut in 2007. The American-born and raised 31-year-old qualifies for New Zealand due to her Kiwi father.
"For me it's really special. I'm so impressed with what the US national team have done. They set a really good example, not just on the field, for the rest of the world to hopefully follow with women's sport."
CJ Bott, Victoria Esson and Rebekah Stott are unavailable for today's match due to club commitments while Sarah Morton and Betsy Hassett are ruled out with injury.