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Ellis names 26-player list for 2016 USWNT camp

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The 26 will be whittled down to 18 to face Republic of Ireland.

Duane Burleson/Getty Images

USWNT head coach Jill Ellis has named 26 players who will be called into a two-week camp in Carson, CA ahead of the friendly against Republic of Ireland on January 23rd. Ellis will chop down that roster to 18 for the Ireland friendly as she prepares to do the same for her Olympic roster.

Among goalkeepers, A.D. Franch returns to the fray after a spell in Europe following a torn ACL in 2014. Olympic rosters generally carry two goalkeepers, and with Hope Solo as the WNT's #1, that backup spot is now a three-way fight, though Ashlyn Harris and Alyssa Naeher probably have an edge over Franch. Between Naeher and Harris, Harris has more caps, but Naeher seems to have been making up ground on Harris.

Christie Rampone is out of the defense after arthroscopic surgery on her left knee. There is  much speculation that Rampone will retire this year, at least from international soccer, but her absence doesn't necessarily have much an impact on the back four. Rampone was already quietly being phased out during the World Cup, making way for the new center back pairing of Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston, with Whitney Engen as a solid backup option. Now it looks like Ellis wants to integrate Emily Sonnett at center back, which may leave Engen out in the cold depending on the configuration of the outside backs.

It seems at this point that Meghan Klingenberg and Ali Krieger will be starters, with Jaelene Hinkle fighting Kelley O'Hara to see which one will be the most useful wingback. O'Hara is stronger than Hinkle at pushing forward and can also be asked to play up at a moment's notice, making her a key utility player.

In the midfield, newcomers Danielle Colaprico and Rose Lavelle are once again in camp and undoubtedly hoping for playing time. At this point Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, and Carli Lloyd are certain to make the Olympic roster, while Heather O'Reilly's status is slightly foggier. There's also Megan Rapinoe to consider, if she can rehab her ACL injury in time.

Lindsey Horan is listed as a midfielder after previously being called in as a forward. She was certainly asked to play more of a midfield role in the last of the Victory Tour friendlies, and could end up in a partnership with Lloyd and Brian. That would leave Colaprico, Lavelle, O'Reilly, and Samantha Mewis all vying for position, assuming Ellis takes five midfielders. Still, it's almost unfathomable that Heather O'Reilly would be left off a major competition roster, and despite her reduced playing time in recent games she's probably a very likely prospect for the Olympics.

The race for forward positions has gotten more interesting now that Abby Wambach is retired and Amy Rodriguez has announced she is pregnant with her second child, taking her out of Olympic consideration. Alex Morgan and Christen Press are both locks to go, and Crystal Dunn has been building up an airtight case for including her as well.

Sydney Leroux's goal production has been falling off in recent years, but with room for five possible forwards, the last spot may come down to McCaffrey or Pugh (or Horan, depending on how the midfield shakes out). McCaffrey has certainly provided the team with a high-energy attacking option on the right and has shown some good interplay with Crystal Dunn, but this creates a situation where Heather O'Reilly gets pushed out left, where she becomes much less effective.

There are a lot of factors at play in winnowing the roster down to 18, and it may be far too soon to speculate with qualifiers yet to play and then even more friendlies against England, Germany, and France planned. But the landscape of the USWNT certainly looks much different than it did at the beginning of 2015, and retirements, injuries, and pregnancies have started to answer a few roster questions already.

GOALKEEPERS (4): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)

DEFENDERS (8): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Univ. of Virginia)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Danielle Colaprico (Chicago Red Stars), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (PSG), Rose Lavelle (Wisconsin), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O'Reilly (FC Kansas City)

FORWARDS (6): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Sydney Leroux (Western New York Flash), Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)