This is a sentence you see every four years. The United States is a favorite to win the Women’s World Cup.
Why should the public not believe this hype?
The US resume is top of its class. The team will enter tournaments in Australia and New Zealand this summer as the world’s number one ranked women’s football team and two-time defending champions. And unlike other Women’s World Cup teams, four small gold stars are sewn above the crest of the jersey to mark the genealogy of the program’s four World Cup titles. When the tournament begins next month, the American team will arrive with a roster dotted with nearly 10 players who have lifted the trophy before.
But knowing what it takes to win is one thing, and doing it with one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams the United States has ever played in a World Cup is one thing. Probably more than half of the members will be World Cup rookies. And even without a respected team captain or most dangerous striker, teams must find ways to play their best.
With this tournament looming, coach Vlatko Andonovski will spend the last few years rebuilding his squad, letting go of veterans and bringing in new talent to build a team he thinks will win this summer and thrive in the future. I’ve been trying.
His federation, players and fans want him to understand everything. Because time is running out for him and the team.
Andonovski, who led his team to a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is set to name his team’s roster on Wednesday, which is expected to include some surprises. He’s already dealt with some things. Just last week, he lost captain and defender Becky Sauerbrunn and was sidelined with a lingering leg injury. He lost 2019 World Cup champion midfield lynchpin Sam Mues to an injury long ago, and more recently, Mallory Swanson, a duo who seemed to peak at the perfect time. lost the presence of valuable attack options. Catalina Macario.
who’s going Stars like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe should join the squad with experience from the past three World Cups and the dignity of being two of the most famous and most outspoken female athletes in the world. Another likely is, after making goals look too easy, including when he casually dribbled through the middle of the field in the final to seemingly score the team’s final goal. Midfielder Rose Lovell was the breakout star of the 2019 tournament.
Among the new stars are Sophia Smith, 22, who was last year’s National Women’s Soccer League Most Valuable Player, and Trinity Rodman, daughter of 2022 NWSL Rookie of the Year and former NBA All-Star Dennis Rodman. right. -Star.
The USA will play its first game against Vietnam on July 22 in Auckland, New Zealand (9:00 pm ET on July 21). Then comes a rematch against another 2019 finalist, the Netherlands, in what will be the team’s biggest game since the last World Cup. , which would probably leave the winner with a much easier road in the knockout stages.
Andonovsky may have surprised himself with some of the names he wrote down. But like several other top teams, his injuries have forced him to change his plans in recent months.
Sauerbrunn, 38, announced last week that he would miss the World Cup due to a foot injury. Not only was she a tenacious center defender for many years, she was also a role model for her teammates to look up to. She’s a Zen master of the team’s confidence and coolness, not to mention she’s been the last-line anchor in their last two World Cup wins.
Her announcement comes just weeks after the fast forward Swanson, Andonovski’s most dangerous forward of the year, tore the patellar tendon in his left knee. Other World Cup veterans, including Muth, Abby Durkemper, Kristen Press and Tobin Heath, have been sidelined by injury or returning from surgery. Macario tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee while playing in France last year, leaving her without time to recover.
But when Andonovski and his team meet for training camp in California next week, there will be plenty of familiar and experienced players. Julie Aerts returned directly to the team’s midfield 10 months after giving birth. Crystal Dunne, who gave birth to her son 13 months ago, is also likely to return. Kelly O’Hara, who was injured earlier this year, is looking to make her fourth World Cup appearance, while Emily Sonnett is expected to make her second appearance. Ravel and Lindsay Horan could offer a familiar mix of grit and flash in midfield.
However, casual fans will have to learn a few new names at the same time. Naomi Girma, a 23-year-old defender for the San Diego Wave making her World Cup debut, a former Stanford captain and the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, could be a potential replacement for Sauerbrunn. And three young forwards in Smith, Rodman and Alyssa Thompson have the qualities needed to push Morgan, Rapinoe and Lynn Williams up front.
Thompson, 18, was called up after Swanson’s injury. She would become the youngest U.S. female soccer player to play in a World Cup since at least 2007. The No. 1 pick in last year’s NWSL Draft, she has the energy, skill and incredible speed to cross generations. But she also just graduated from high school.
With a mix of new and old players, it remains to be seen whether the teams appearing in New Zealand will have the dignity of previous teams. The team’s preeminence in the women’s game is threatened by the increasing investment and growing power of its rivals in Europe. Last autumn, the United States suffered three straight losses for the first time since 1993.
Losing to three European opponents, Germany, England and Spain, sent an unmistakable message to outsiders. It was that the United States was still ranked as one of the favorites to win. But that margin may be smaller than ever.