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5 NCAA soccer players who could be future USWNT stars

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about the future of the United States Women’s National Team. Who will step up for the retiring Carli Lloyd? Are the up-and-coming stars ready to assume the mantle?

While spectacular goals from Catarina Macario and Sophia Smith in the USWNT’s September fall friendlies provided a glimpse into the team’s possible future, an under-covered talent pool exists in the NCAA today.

With conference play kicking off, here’s five current college stars who could be representing the USWNT at future World Cups:

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Jaelin Howell, Florida State University

Heading into her senior year at Florida State, Howell has already captured nearly every award there is to win in collegiate soccer. The star midfielder is the reigning 2020-2021 Mac Hermann Trophy winner and 2020 ACC Midfielder of the Year. And with two USWNT caps already under her belt, there’s no doubt the future is bright for the 21-year-old.

In her last year at Florida State, the Seminoles are the heavy favorite to take home the national championship after falling to Santa Clara last season in a PK shootout. Howell’s defensive presence and ability to distribute balls through the midfield will be critical in Florida State’s run for the NCAA trophy. Her role as a defensive midfield is one the USWNT is looking to develop under the tutelage of Julie Ertz, making Howell a near lock as a prospect.

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Naomi Girma, Stanford University

Girma, a Senior at Stanford University, has a long and likely growing resume. She previously captained the U.S. U20 Women’s National Team, was voted the 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year, and won the 2019 NCAA Championship with Stanford.

The 21-year-old faced some adversity earlier this year when she tore her ACL, forcing her to redshirt and miss the delayed 2021 season. Back on the pitch with Stanford, Girma brings a critical, technical presence to both sides of the ball. Her attacking mindset, combined with her defensive know-how, makes her a strong contender for a shot on the USWNT’s backline.

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Mia Fishel, UCLA

Since she was a teen, Fishel has been making a name for herself, scoring the tournament-opener at the 2018 U-17 World Cup and winning the Golden Ball during the 2020 CONCACAF U-20 Championships. The 20-year-old has been equally successful in her collegiate career, leading the Bruins in goals during her freshman season and being named a Second Team All-American in 2020.

The junior now has a chance to make a title run with a top-10 UCLA squad. The Bruins started their season going undefeated in non-conference play, thanks in part to Fishel’s seven goals across eight games. No stranger to the USWNT’s developmental programs, Fishel is one to watch as she rises through soccer’s ranks.

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Kelsey Turnbow, Santa Clara University

Turnbow returns to the pitch following a record-breaking 2020-2021 season, when she led the Santa Clara Broncos to their first national championship since 2001.

With an extra year of eligibility, Turnbow returns to Santa Clara after being selected 18th overall in the 2021 NWSL draft by the Chicago Red Stars. Before going pro, Turnbow will look to defend the Bronco’s NCAA title, serving as the team’s offensive spark. An additional year in the NCAA and a spot in the NWSL could provide Turnbow the stage she needs to show her attacking skills are worthy of a National Team look.

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Anna Podojil, Arkansas

Podojil enters her junior year with some distinguished credits to her name: 2021 First Team All-American, 2021 MAC Hermann Award semifinalist, 2020 SEC Forward of the Year, and 2019 Freshman of the Year.

The star forward now hopes to make a run at an NCAA title, and with five goals in her first eight games, Podojil is starting the season on the front foot. With the Razorbacks ranked in the top-20, a championship push isn’t out of the question. Trophy or not, Podojil is the real deal, and her accomplishments should already cement her place in a crowded list of potential USWNT forwards.