We’ve entered the evaluation phase of the United States Women’s National Team program, and while the 2023 Women’s World Cup wraps up this weekend, the focus here has already shifted to the future. With the 2024 Olympics just under a year away, the next major tournament for the USWNT, speculation has already begun over how the program will respond as they begin retooling for the next year.
The end of the USWNT’s run at the 2023 Women’s World Cup will certainly signal the final days of some players on the national team, which will leave some opportunity for new players to become integrated into the player pool. And with the Olympic teams being only 20 players as opposed to the 23 that are on a World Cup roster, the competition for those spots will only be more intense.
Yesterday, we took a look at the goalkeepers and midfielders, and today we examine the midfielders and forwards. Of course, not everyone that could factor into the USWNT player pool over the next 4 years will be listed here, as some players will step away and others will step up. However, with the midfielders and forwards, there could be a ton of turnover as we move into the next year and beyond. We examine those players that are either currently in the player pool or could move into it during the next cycle (bold - listed on the Women’s World Cup roster; age in parenthesis).
Kristie Mewis (32), Julie Ertz (31), Lindsey Horan (29), Rose Lavelle (28), Andi Sullivan (27), Savannah DeMelo (25), Ashley Sanchez (24), Sam Mewis (30), Carson Pickett (29), Taylor Kornieck (24), Sam Coffey (24), Jaelin Howell (23), Olivia Moultrie (17), Chloe Ricketts (16)
The biggest loss from the midfield pool will be Julie Ertz. Ertz, who just returned to the USWNT in April from injury and maternity leave, announced after the match in an emotional postgame interview that the loss to Sweden in the Round of 16 was likely her last match in a U.S. uniform. USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski spent the better part of 2 years auditioning a few players to potentially replace Ertz at the 6, and that battle was won by Andi Sullivan, who should be one of the mainstays in the midfield over the next 4 years. However, Ertz played during the Women’s World Cup at centerback, a position she had not played in years, which makes it more of a mystery how they plan to replace her.
Kristie Mewis might not factor into a World Cup 4 years from now in a crowded midfield, and even players like Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, and Andi Sullivan will be in their 30s when the next World Cup comes around. Sam Mewis, who has missed almost 2 years due to injury, is probably done with the national team, which leaves the door open for players like Ashley Sanchez, Savannah DeMelo, Sam Coffey, Taylor Kornieck, and Jaelin Howell to take a step up and fight for potential starting and super sub roles on the team.
Carson Pickett will be over 30 for the next World Cup, but you can’t count out her ability to produce and be an option in the short term. The question will be if one of the young up-and-coming stars in the NWSL, like Olivia Moultrie or Chloe Ricketts, will take the leap necessary to earn some looks on the senior national team during the next cycle, or if there’s a player currently in college that could burst onto the scene in the midfield.
Megan Rapinoe (38), Alex Morgan (34), Lynn Williams (30), Sophia Smith (23), Trinity Rodman (21), Alyssa Thompson (18), Tobin Heath (35), Christen Press (34), Ashley Hatch (28), Midge Purce (27), Mal Swanson (25), Catarina Macario (23), Mia Fishel (22), Michelle Cooper (20), Jaedyn Shaw (18)
Megan Rapinoe has played her last World Cup and will retire from soccer after this year, and one has to think that this was also the last World Cup for Alex Morgan as well. Lynn Williams will be 34 at the next World Cup, and in a loaded forward spot, can she maintain the level needed to stay in the lineup and on the roster?
Tobin Heath and Christen Press have given us so many great moments, but with both still injured, their playing career is running short and sadly, we may never see them don the USWNT crest in competition again. Ashley Hatch, Midge Purce, Mal Swanson, and Catarina Macario should all be big parts of the forward player pool in the next cycle. Swanson and Macario would have likely made the World Cup roster had they not been injured, while Hatch and Purce were competing for spots but were left off the final roster by USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski.
Most people think it has been time for the forwards of the future to take the baton and run with it. Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, and Alyssa Thompson should form the core of the forward group moving forward, and barring injury, the 3 of them should be a part of the program for the next decade. Each of them could be joined by a few other young forwards that have been waiting for their opportunity.
Mia Fishel’s move to Chelsea FC after tearing it up in Liga MX for Tigres should put her solidly on the radar of whoever is coaching the USWNT, while Michelle Cooper and Jaedyn Shaw are prospects that have been on youth national teams and have starred on those levels. Shaw especially, at 18 years old, could be the next great young striker from NWSL that bursts onto the national team, and the way she’s developing, that could be sooner rather than later. The competition for the forward position should be fierce, but it’s a competition that will definitely make each of them better while keeping the USWNT as one of the best teams in the world. The players that develop the killer instinct for scoring goals at a high clip are going to be the players that see the most time on the field as we move along.
The next cycle for the United States Women’s National Team begins now, and with 3 windows this fall, we should see some players get their opportunity to show that they can be a contributing member of the Olympic roster and be one of the dependable players for the USWNT over the next 4 years. Who the coach will be could affect all that, but once these players make the international stage, it will be up to them to produce to make sure they stay on the national team for years to come.