The delegation went to New Zealand and Australia on July 20-Aug. However, the 20-something show will also introduce several newcomers to football’s award-winning competition.
Andonovski’s picks included two of the game’s most exciting young players, 21-year-old Trinity Rodman and 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson.
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A total of 14 players will be making their first World Cup, including four Washington Spirit representatives: Rodman, midfielders Andi Sullivan (Lorton, Va.) and Ashley Sanchez and goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury.
Also 24 and younger are three likely starters: defenders Emily Fox (Ashburn, Va.) and Naomi Girma and forward Sophia Smith.
The top-ranked USA is looking to become the first men’s or women’s team to win three consecutive world championships. Training camp opens Monday in Carson, California, leading to the final tuneup July 9 against Wales in San Jose.
“It’s not going to be easy,” said Smith, 22, adding that the veterans have “made that very clear.”
“They will continue to make it clear to many of us young players who have never played in a World Cup before,” she said. “It’s great because we have to be prepared. We have to know those things. We have to hear from the veteran players who have been there and done that.”
According to Soccer Americathis team has the fewest returning WC players in program history.
Based in New Zealand for the group stage, the Americans will open against Vietnam, then face the Netherlands in a rematch of the 2019 final and finish with Portugal.
WC expanded by eight teams to 32. European champion England is also among the favourites.
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“We already have a target on our back,” said Morgan, 33, who is preparing for his fourth world championship. “But there are some teams that have done incredibly well over the last four years and made a name for themselves to compete for this trophy. I’m very optimistic about our chances with this roster.”
The list is without four certain selections who were ruled out due to injuries: captain Becky Sauerbrunn, winger Mallory Swanson, forward Catarina Macario and midfielder Sam Mewis.
Rapinoe and midfielder Rose Lavelle have also had injuries, but Andonovski said he expects both to play in the July 9 friendly.
A wealth of depth in the sport’s most decorated program will help offset the losses. Rodman, the 2021 National Women’s Soccer League Rookie of the Year, has received regular invitations to the national team over the past year.
“Since she came into the league, we could see the energy and the creativity and the intensity,” Andonovski said. “Every time she gets the ball, it’s almost like there’s a little anticipation [that] something will happen.”
Thompson, who skipped college soccer to be selected No. 1 by Angel City in the NWSL draft this year, debuted with the national team last fall.
Ashley Sanchez has had a strong start with the Spirit and has her eyes on the World Cup
She is the fourth teenager and second-youngest to be named to a U.S. World Cup roster, behind current assistant coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak (1995).
Andonovski called Thompson a “player with some exceptional skills and exceptional ability.”
The combined ages of Rodman and Thompson are slightly more than Rapinoe, the 2019 World Cup hero, who turns 38 on July 5 and is likely to compete in her last major competition.
The biggest surprise was midfielder Savannah DeMelo, the third player in U.S. history to receive a World Cup roster spot without having previously appeared for the national team. The others were Debbie Keller (1995) and Shannon Boxx (2003).
In his second year as a professional, DeMelo, 25, has enjoyed an outstanding season with the NWSL’s Racing Louisville. “Her performance in the league,” Andonovski said, “was one of the biggest reasons she’s on the team.”
Notable players who didn’t make the cut were Spirit forward Ashley Hatch, San Diego Wave midfielder Taylor Kornieck and Chicago Red Stars defender Tierna Davidson, the youngest member of the 2019 World Cup squad.
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Hatch’s absence leaves Andonovski without a pure striker to support Morgan. If necessary, Smith could slide into that slot from his right wing.
Sauerbrunn’s injury left a gaping void in central defence. Girma and Alana Cook are the expected starters, but there isn’t much depth. One option would be to use Julie Ertz, who anchored the back line in 2015 before moving to defensive midfield four years later. She returned to the national team this year after taking maternity leave.
“It’s definitely something we’re thinking about,” Andonovski said of playing Ertz in the backfield, “and we’ll explore that possibility.”
Ertz is among nine selections with World Cup experience, joining Morgan, Rapinoe, Lavelle, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defenders Crystal Dunn, Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett and midfielder Lindsey Horan.
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Seattle-based OL Reign has five representatives on the squad, followed by the Spirit’s four. Horan, from France’s Olympique Lyon, is the only foreign-based player.
“We want to do something that has never been done before,” Andonovski said. “We believe in the quality of the team. We believe in the support we have and we believe we have what it takes to make it possible.”
2023 USWNT World Cup Roster
Goalkeepers: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).
Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Gotham FC), Emily Sonnett (OL ) reign).
Midfielders: Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville), Julie Ertz (Angel City), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).
Extenders: Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Alyssa Thompson (Angel City), Lynn Williams (Gotham FC).