Mia Hamm: Which young USWNT players stand out to her?

Catarina Macario, Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh represented the USWNT's future in 2022. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team legend Mia Hamm is following the latest iteration of the squad, and two players in particular have stood out to her, she told Bleacher Report.

Among the next generation of USWNT stars, Hamm said 24-year-old Mallory Pugh and 23-year-old Catarina Macario have made an impression as the team prepares for the 2023 World Cup.

Hamm knows Pugh has battled the heavy weight of expectations after she first earned a call-up to the senior national team as a teenager.

“It’s hard when everyone is asking you to carry the load and you have yet to deal with failure,” Hamm said. “I think for her, it shows how strong and resilient she is.”

Pugh was snubbed from the U.S. Olympic roster in 2021 but since then has undergone a career renaissance.

“When I see her play, the joy on her face is what excites me about her future,” Hamm said. “I’m really excited to watch her play next summer.”

As for Macario, an ACL tear in June sidelined her for the rest of the year. But she expects to return to the USWNT in early 2023 with the aim of earning a place on the roster for the World Cup in July.

“As a forward, I wish I had her savvy and understanding at that age,” Hamm said. “Sometimes I willed goals in rather than being mindful of using the right surface or making the right run. But she is just so sophisticated at a young age.

“I would love to see her next summer just because I think she has so much exciting soccer to share with us.”

Hamm joins several former USWNT stars who have spoken about the state of the squad in recent weeks, among them Julie Foudy and Carli Lloyd.