Becky Sauerbrunn held out hope for an appearance at the 2023 World Cup until the last possible minute. But the longtime U.S. women’s national team captain will miss the tournament with a lingering foot injury.
Yet even as she shared her World Cup disappointment with USWNT teammates Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis on the latest episode of Snacks, she offered encouragement to the players — including Williams — who will make the trip.
The 38-year-old defender announced last Friday that she would miss the World Cup after injuring her foot while playing for the Portland Thorns in April. She returned to the pitch for the first time since the injury on June 3, playing 24 minutes against OL Reign, but she was still “in a decent amount of pain.”
While a World Cup return remained “possible,” she said, doctors warned that it would be “aggressive” for her to get back in time for the tournament, which kicks off in Australia and New Zealand on July 20.
“And so I think it was always in the back of my head that this was a possibility,” she said. “But until (head coach Vlatko Andonovski) called, I was holding out like 10% hope that I was going to make it.”
Ultimately, though, the timeline for her return and what the USWNT needed didn’t match up.
“It sucks, like, it’s such a bummer,” she said. “I really thought that I was gonna get back in time. Had a setback, you know, we gave them timelines where I could feasibly have played minutes at the World Cup. But the variability of it was, they just didn’t want to have to deal with that.
“And you don’t want somebody, a center-back in particular, that can only play 15 minutes later on in the tournament. So I totally understood. I kind of hoped I was going to squeak in maybe as just a presence, as a leader that could just keep the locker room hopefully in a really positive good vibe state.”
Andonovski and the USWNT staff will lean on other players for veteran presence, including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan. And while Sauerbrunn is “obviously going to be cheering my ass off,” she admitted she still is going to be sad “for a little bit.”
“But like all things, I will get over it. I’ll be stronger for it,” she added. “So it just sucks right now.”
And she also offered a bit of wisdom to other players who have been left at home for this go around.
“For the players that didn’t make it this go, that we’re right on the bubble, you still have such a bright future and so much to work toward,” she said. “And so, if they want to look toward this and be like, ‘Man, her World Cup dream ended this way. And she’s still going to do this next podcast, like I can go to practice after getting bad news and do my best.’
“It’s rough. And kudos to all those players that are going through that right now and are putting their best foot forward and playing in these games when their heart is broken, because it is not easy to get that news.”
Sauerbrunn also struggled with dealing with her own disappointment publicly. While she had hoped to “have the weekend to process it myself,” she said, the news of her absence leaked ahead of the official roster drop. The USWNT revealed the 23-player roster Wednesday, but Sauerbrunn’s absence was reported Friday by The Athletic, and then Sauerbrunn followed the report with her own statement.
“I really just kind of want to suffer in silence for a little bit,” she said. “But of course, you know, you got to do what you got to do.”