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Meeting the Champions: A newcomers guide to the USWNT

Get to know the players that will put up a back-to-back title defense.

Brazil v USWNT Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

They are inarguably the most successful soccer team the nation has ever seen, and globally they trail only the Brazilian men’s team in the number of World Cups won. The dominance of the United States Women’s National Team has been even more stark given that the tournament has taken place just eight times on the women’s side and the United States has taken home the trophy four of those eight times, including the two most recent titles.

There are names that have risen to both global icon and household recognition status, and there are also some newer faces. Maybe you drop in once every four years to check on the team at the World Cup, maybe you’re entirely new to following them, or maybe you’ve been around awhile. Regardless of how you got here, we’re glad you made it, it’s going to be a show. So, let us introduce you to the cast, some of whom you are almost certainly familiar with, and some of who are newer to the scene so you may be less aware of.


#21 - Aubrey Kingsbury, 31, Washington Spirit

Aubrey Kingsbury has just one appearance for the national team and will be appearing at the World Cup for the first time this summer. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Kingsbury attended Wake Forest where she was a three time All-American. Kingsbury bounced around early in her pro career, including stops in LA, Norway, and Denmark before being drafted by the Orlando Pride in 2015 and serving primarily as a backup in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. In 2018 Kingsbury joined the Washington Spirit and in 2021 won the NWSL Championship with the team, defeating Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars in the final. Kingsbury is one of four Spirit players named to the 2023 World Cup squad.

#18 - Casey Murphy, 27, North Carolina Courage

Casey Murphy will also be appearing at her first World Cup in 2023, having previously appeared 14 times for the national team. Murphy grew up in Bridgewater, New Jersey and attended Rutgers. Murphy was drafted in 2018 by Sky Blue FC but did not sign with the club, instead choosing to play for Montpellier in France’s Division 1 Feminine. In 2019 Murphy signed with the OL reign and a year later was traded to the North Carolina Courage in exchange for USWNT teammate Crystal Dunn. Casey made her first appearance for the USWNT in 2021 in Australia and has received 11 appearances over the past year in international friendlies.

#1 - Alyssa Naeher, 35, Chicago Red Stars

While Kingsbury and Murphy are appearing at the World Cup for the first time Alyssa Naeher will be looking to lift the trophy for the third time. A native of Bridgeport, Connecticut Naeher was a star basketball player as well and had hopes of going pro on the hardwood before her soccer career bloomed. After attending Penn State her pro career started in the Women’s Professional Soccer league with the Boston Breakers and she spent two years in the German Bundesliga with Turbine Potsdam. Naeher now plays for the Chicago Red Stars, where she’s been since 2016, and recently became the NWSL’s all time leader in saves and appearances by a goal keeper. Naeher served a backup role to Hope Solo at the 2015 World Cup and took over as the starter for the 2019 trophy winning team which included a crucial penalty save in the 83’ minute to preserve the semi-final win against England.


#12 - Alana Cook, 26, OL Reign

Alana Cook will be making her first World Cup appearance in 2023. Growing up in Massachusetts and New Jersey, Cook attended Stanford where she earned a degree in symbolic systems while also captaining the Cardinal for their NCAA national championship run in 2017. After Stanford, Cook signed with Paris Saint-Germain where she played two seasons before joining the OL Reign in 2021. Cook is a dual national and was called up to England’s senior team in September of 2019 but a month later was called up to the USWNT and is now cap-tied to the team.

#19 - Crystal Dunn, 31, Portland Thorns

While she plays primarily an attack minded midfielder for her club, Crystal Dunn regularly features at left-back for the USWNT including starting every crucial match in the 2019 World Cup winning run. Dunn attended the University of North Carolina where she played a key role in her team’s 2012 national title and won the 2013 Hermann trophy as the top player of the year. Dunn has had a hugely successful professional career in the NWSL which has included featuring for the Washington Spirit where she won the golden boot award and was named the 2015 MVP, the North Carolina Courage which won the 2018 and 2019 NWSL titles, and since 2020 the Portland Thorns which won the 2021 NWSL regular season and 2022 Championship.

#23 - Emily Fox, 25, North Carolina Courage

Another University of North Carolina product Emily Fox first appeared for the USWNT in 2018 in a set of friendlies against Portugal and Scotland but was not named to the 2019 World Cup roster so the 2023 edition will be her first. Fox was drafted out of college by Racing Louisville but was traded this past offseason to the North Carolina Courage. Fox is capable of playing on the left or the right side of the defense but with Dunn entrenched on the left seems more likely to appear on the right side in the tournament.

#4 - Naomi Girma, 23, San Diego Wave

The youngest defender and one of the younger players on the team at any position, Naomi Girma is a native of San Jose, California who was drafted first overall in the 2022 NWSL draft following a successful career at Stanford which included a national championship in 2019. Girma was named the 2022 rookie of the year and the 2022 defender of the year and has sixteen appearances at the senior level since making her senior debut in April of 2022. Girma is the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants who met in San Jose and got her start on the soccer field playing for a local club formed by her father for the Bay Area Ethiopian community.

#3 - Sofia Huerta, 39, OL Reign

A native of Boise, Idaho Sofia Huerta is a dual national with ties to Mexico through her father Mauricio who is a native of Puebla, Mexico. Huerta actually made five appearances for Mexico in 2012 and 2013, including scoring three of Mexico’s seven goals in the 2012 U-20 Women’s World Cup and even making appearance as a second half substitute against the USWNT in September of 2013. It wasn’t until 2017 that Huerta’s request to change affiliation to the United States was approved and she has made 30 appearances for the USWNT team since with most of those coming in the past two years. Huerta has played in the NWSL since she was drafted in 2015 with loan stints in Australia as well. 2023 will be Huerta’s first World Cup appearance.

#5 - Kelley O’Hara, 34, NJ/NY Gotham FC

Kelley O’Hara will be one of three USWNT players appearing at her fourth World Cup, with over 150 appearances for the team she has had a long and incredibly successful career though perhaps without the same headline grabbing numbers as others. While she’s made her name largely in defense for the USWNT the native of Georgia got her start as an attacking minded player. O’Hara is another Stanford Cardinal graduate who scored 26 goals and added 13 assists on her way to being named the Herman trophy winner as the top collegiate player in 2009. O’Hara received her first senior team callup in 2009 and was named to the 2011 World Cup roster as an injury replacement. She would make just one appearance in the tournament as the US took home the silver medal. In 2015 O’Hara did not see the field until a substitute appearance in the quarter-finals but would score a key goal, her first international goal for the US, in a 2-0 semi-final win over Germany. Finally, in 2019 O’Hara appeared in every knockout stage game and picked up the opening assist against England in the Semi-Finals.

#14 - Emily Sonnett, 29, OL Reign

Emily Sonnett was also a part of the 2019 World Cup winning squad though she appeared just once off the bench in the tournament. Sonnett is a native of Georgia who played her college career at the University of Virginia before being selected first overall by the Portland Thorns in the 2016 NWSL draft. Sonnett would contribute to the Thorns 2017 title including goal contributions in the Semi-Final and the Final matches. In 2021 she was traded from Orlando to the the Washington Spirit where she would win her second league championship. Despite just one World Cup appearance Sonnett has picked up 75 caps for the national team over the past nine years.


#9 - Savannah DeMelo, 25, Racing Louisville

With her inclusion in the 2023 World Cup roster Racing Louisville’s Savanah DeMelo became just the third USWNT player ever to make a World Cup roster without ever having appeared for the team. DeMelo played her collegiate career at the University of Southern California before being drafted last year by Racing Lousville. DeMelo was called up for the senior team last Fall but did not make the field, and received her first cap for the senior team on July 9th against Wales in the USWNT Send Off Match in California before heading to New Zealand.

#8 - Julie Ertz, 31, Angel City FC

After a year and a half off Julie Ertz has returned to the USWNT looking to be one of five players to go for the three-peat. If the team is going to pull off the title defense Ertz will likely have a significant role, as she has in the past. In the 2015 title run Ertz played every minute of the tournament, and in 2019 she was name the US Soccer Female Player of the Year (her second year winning the award with the first coming in 2017). A native of Arizona, Ertz attended Santa Clara University before starting her NWSL career with the Chicago Red Stars in 2014. Ertz played with the Red Stars until 2021 when her rights were traded to Angel City FC. Ertz would then walk away for 18 months until returning to the field in April of 2023 in an effort to regain fitness and form ahead of the World Cup.

#10 - Lindsey Horan, 29, Olympique Lyonnais

The only player on the USWNT roster who is not playing in the NWSL, Lindsey Horan plays for Olympique Lyon where she has twice won the Division 1 Feminine as well as winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Horan had a scholarship offer to play for the University of North Carolina but elected to sign a professional contract with Paris Saint-Germain at 18. She would play in France until 2016 when she joined the the Portland Thorns for six years before returning to France and Lyon in 2022. Horan has had a long career with the USWNT with over 100 appearances including the 2019 World Cup and has been named co-captain for the 2023 World Cup.

#16 - Rose Lavelle, 28, OL Reign

Rose Lavelle hasn’t seen a soccer field in a competitive match since April but might be one of the most creative players to wear the US jersey this summer if she can find her way onto the pitch. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Lavelle attended the University of Wisconsin where she earned First Team All-American honors in 2015. Lavelle started her pro career with the now defunct Boston Breakers before stings with the Washington Spirit, Manchester City, and most recently the OL Reign where she has been playing since 2021. Lavelle played a key role in the 2019 World Cup run including scoring the second goal in the final against the Netherlands.

#22 - Kristie Mewis, 32, NJ/NY Gotham FC

Kristie Mewis will be hoping that the wait has been worth it as she now makes her World Cup debut at the age of 32. Mewis is the older sister of Sam Mewis who was included in the 2019 World Cup but misses out this time due to injury. Sam and Kristie are the first set of sisters to represent the USWNT at a World Cup. Mewis grew up in Massachusetts and attended Boston College before starting a professional career that has spanned nine teams on four continents.

#2 - Ashley Sanchez, 24, Washington Spirit

A native of Southern California, Ashley Sanchez committed to UCLA while still in the eighth grade, she would play three seasons with the Bruins before turning pro and joining the Washington Spirit. Sanchez is one of four players, including three in the attack, representing the US from the Washington Spirit. Sanchez received her first senior national team call up in 2016 at just 17 years old, the same year she was name the US Soccer Young Female Player of the Year. Now, seven years later, she will look to make her World Cup debut.

#17 - Andi Sullivan, 27, Washington Spirit

Born in Hawaii and raised in Virginia, Andi Sullivan headed back West to play for Stanford where she would win a national title and receive the Hermann Trophy in 2017. After her college career it was back to the DC Metro area when Sullivan was drafted by the Washington Spirit where she has played since 2018, including the Championship winning 2021 season. Sullivan has made 44 appearances for the USWNT putting her just behind Kristie Mewis (51) and Lynn Sullivan (52) for the players with the most caps who will be making their World Cup debuts in 2023.

#13 - Alex Morgan, 34, San Diego Wave

One of the most recognizable names at the 2023 World Cup will certainly be Alex Morgan who leads the US team in appearances and goals and has been one of the primary faces of the team as they have hoisted the past two trophies. Morgan’s 121 goals scored in a US shirt are nearly twice as many as the next closest teammate on this roster, Megan Rapinoe, who we’ll get to in a moment. In fact, Morgan goal tally makes up a whopping 37% of the international goals that have been scored by players the team. This will be Morgan’s fourth World Cup appearance, the first coming in 2011 when Morgan became the first player to tally a goal and an assist in a World Cup final despite the team losing to Japan. In 2015 Morgan came in to the tournament nursing a knee injury and only contributed two goals in the tournament. In the 2019 tournament Morgan recorded six goals, thanks in large part to a five goal outburst against Thailand as the US went on to win 13-0. Morgan started out playing soccer in Southern California and attended the University of California before a pro career that has taken her across the US, France, and England before returning back to California to play for the San Diego Wave in 2022.

#15 - Megan Rapinoe, 38, OL Reign

The one name on the roster that can currently give Alex Morgan a run for her money in name recognition is Megan Rapinoe, herself a two time champion and three time World Cup participant who actually missed out on an appearance in 2009 as well due to injury. Born and raised in Reading, California, Rapinoe attended the University of Portland before being selected in the 2009 WPS draft by the Chicago Red Stars. Those were rocky days for the top women’s soccer division with that version of the Red Starts folding in 2010 which resulted in Rapinoe being signed by the Philadelphia Independence, being traded for cash to a team called MagicJack, which was then itself terminated by the league at the end of the season. Rapinoe would make her way to Australia and France before joining the Seattle Reign in 2013, where she has played for the last 10 years. Rapinoe has been a key figure in her three previous World Cup trips, playing all six games in 2011, six of seven for the 2015 winning team, and winning the golden boot as the top goal scorer in the 2019 title defense. Rapinoe has had an outsized impact off the field as well, most notably being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2022 (the highest recognition that can be given to a civilian) for her work in advocating for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights. Rapinoe recently announced that the 2023 season will be her last as she will retire from international and club soccer following the season.

#20 - Trinity Rodman, 21, Washington Spirit

Trinity Rodman was was also born and raised in Southern California, playing club soccer and winning four national championships at the youth level before heading to Washington State University where she intended to play soccer. However, Rodman’s freshman season was interrupted due to COVID and she never played a match for the Cougars as she elected to cut her college career short and go pro. Rodman would become the youngest player to be drafted in NWSL history and was subsequently named the rookie of the year and US Soccer Young Female player of the year in 2021. Rodman is notably the daughter of five time NBA Champion Dennis Rodman but was raised primarily by her mother and credits her as the primary role model growing up. Rodman has made 18 appearances for the USWNT over the past two years, scoring four goals. If the US is going to make another sustained run in 2023 Rodman will probably be in the mix.

#11 - Sophia Smith, 22, Portland Thorns

Hailing from Colorado, Sophia Smith is another in the long line of USWNT players who have come out of the Stanford program. Smith attended Stanford for two seasons and in 2019 as the USWNT was winning the World Cup Smith was winning a title of her own, scoring a hat-trick in the semifinal as Stanford went on to again win the national title. Following the national title victory Smith went pro and was drafted by the Portland Thorns in 2020 with the first overall selection. In 2022 Smith was named the NWSL Most Valuable Player. Smith made her first appearance for the national team in 2020, nine more in 2021, and in 2022 and 2023 Smith has appeared 20 times, scoring eleven goals.

#7 - Alyssa Thompson, 18, Angel City FC

The youngest player on the 2023 team, Alyssa Thompson was just 10 years old when Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe were winning their first World Cup trophy in 2015. Thompson was born and raised in Southern California and played as a 17-year-old for the U-19 Total Futbol Academy team as the only female player in the MLS Next league. In January of this year, while still finishing her senior year of high school, Thompson was drafted by Angel City FC. She has 13 appearances and three goals for the club so far this season. Thompson first played for the USWNT in 2022 as a 17-year-old becoming the youngest player for the team since teammate Sophia Smith in 2017.

#6 - Lynn Williams, 30, NY/NJ Gotham FC

Also making her World Cup debut (but at a more seasoned point in her career) is Lynn Williams of Gotham FC. Hailing from California, Williams attended Pepperdine University before being drafted in 2015 by the Western New York Flash. In 2016 Williams led the NWSL in scoring, was named MVP, and the team won the NWSL Championship. However that success wasn’t enough to sustain the team and in 2017 they were sold, moved and rebranded to the North Carolina Courage and Williams made the transition with the team. In 2017 they would again finish the regular season with the best record and in 2018 they repeated as NWSL Champions. Despite the club success Williams has had a hard time breaking through at the National Team level, she was left off the 2019 World Cup roster and made just two appearances that year. She’ll be looking to make up for lost time this Summer in her World Cup breakthrough.

So, these are 23 USWNT players who are ready to take on the world. Let’s get behind them!