While some other nations have so far named a provisional squad to be whittled down, the USA has shown its hand early and named the 23 players who will defend the team's title at the 2023 Women's World Cup.
It is a squad packed with talent, but one that looks different from the last two tournaments. In the words of Alex Morgan, the ages in the locker room will range from “18 to Pinoe”.
With the NWSL season still underway, and the final deadline for squads not due until July 9, there may be some changes, but we have a clear picture of one of the highest-profile teams to land in New Zealand.
Of the 23 players in the squad, only nine remain from the side that lifted the trophy in France four years ago. Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Kelly O’Hara will become the 10th, 11th and 12th USWNT players to be named in four tournaments or more. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and midfielder Julie Ertz have been named in a World Cup squad for the third consecutive time.
14 players will hope to make their World Cup debut in July. Among them, Racing Louisville playmaker Savannah DeMelo and Gotham midfielder Kristie Mewis. Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith are among the eye-catching young stars that add to the USA’s depth and attacking threat.
One big name missing is veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn. The centre-back is a legend of the game and will not easily be replaced. It will take a team to make up for the injured superstar, and Vlatko Andonovski has named seven defenders in the squad to defend their title.
The USWNT has named only one player who does not feature in their domestic league. Lindsay Horan is the sole representative from Europe. The midfielder lifted the UEFA Champions League in 2022 with Olympique Lyon.
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 Waves), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (NY/NJ Gotham FC), Emily Sonnett (OL Reign.)
MIDFIELDERS: Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC), Julie Ertz (Angle City FC), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NY/Nj Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
FORWARDS: Alex Morgan (San Diego Waves, Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washinton Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Alyssa Thompson (Angel City FC), Lynn Williams (NY/NJ Gotham FC.)
HOW WILL THEY LINE UP?...
Traditionally, the USWNT uses a 4-3-3 formation. Sophie Huerta has established herself as a valuable option at right back, while at left back they can choose between Kelly O’Hara and Crystal Dunn.
Dunn is an interesting case. A damaging and versatile midfielder at club level, the Portland Thorn has been listed by Andonovski as a defender. Her best position is a cause of much debate among USA fans. There is no doubt that as an individual she is best suited to midfield. There is also little chance she will play there in this World Cup.
Sauerbrunn’s injury leaves a big set of boots to fill in defence. She has long been a dependable and consistent presence on that team. Natalie Girma and Alana Cook have both been used in recent friendlies but both were alongside Sauerbrunn.
The USWNT will still be formidable opponents, but with the two-time World Cup winning centre back, the veneer of invincibility no longer remains. It is in midfield where they start to flex their significant depth.
DeMelo might not have played at this level before but will arrive in New Zealand in a rich vein of form. From 11 games in the NWSL this season, she has five goals, two assists and a string of fantastic performances. Horan is a star with the trophies to back up her reputation, and in Rose Lavelle, they have a quality playmaker that got the job done in the 2019 final.
Mewis’s call-up is a reward for consistency with Gotham FC, and Julie Ertz remains a fan favourite. Any combination of these players will form an enviable midfield trio. Andi Sullivan and Ashley Sanchez are the most likely pairing but it will be up to Andonovski to work out which three players work best together to feed the deadly-looking attack.
Those forward options are where the USWNT start to get scary. Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith are more than just impressive young players. They are already key players for their clubs and can impact matches at international level.
Alex Morgan remains one of the world’s best strikers and Lynn Williams is in career-best form. The Gotham FC striker has slowly evolved into one of the USA’s most creative and versatile forwards. Megan Rapinoe may not even be a guaranteed starter amongst some of these names. She showed some signs of slowing at The Tokyo Olympics, but then dominated the Bronze Medal match with an incredible brace.
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THE SUPER SUB
Savannah DeMelo is an unknown quantity at the World Cup, and had not featured in Andonovski’s plans... until now. But she has earned her call-up with a sparkling start to the NWSL season, and that form is expected to continue up until the tournament.
She is the first uncapped player to feature in a World Cup squad for the USA since 2003 and adds yet another goal threat to the side. DeMelo is a deadly finisher and a skilful midfielder. She has forced her way into this squad and will be expected to make an impact. Given the experience of the rest of the team, a starting role is unlikely. But many coaches could love to have a player like Savannah DeMelo in reserve. A game-changer in every sense of the word.
July 22: WWC Group E vs Vietnam, Eden Park, 11am AEST
July 27: WWC Group E vs The Netherlands, Wellington Regional Stadium,11am AEST
August 1: WWC Group E vs Portugal, Eden Park, 5pm AEST