Julie Foudy: USWNT is in ‘rebuild’ ahead of 2023 World Cup

Andi Sullivan, Kristie Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh enter Red Bull Arena before the USWNT's match against Germany on Nov. 13. (Erin Chang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The men’s World Cup in Qatar brought attention to the progress the U.S. women’s national team has made off the pitch in the form of its equal pay deal. But on the pitch, its roster is dealing with growing pains, U.S. soccer legend Julie Foudy tells Just Women’s Sports.

As the men’s national team made its World Cup run, the USWNT made headlines, as for the first time under their new CBAs, the teams are sharing their FIFA prize money equally. The USMNT advanced to the knockout round, which put both squads in line to receive $5.85 million each — but for Foudy, the change is about more than the bottom line.

“The U.S. Soccer logo and mantra has always been ‘one nation, one team,’ right? But now it really feels like that,” Foudy says. “They always did support each other, but it just feels very different now.

“It feels the way it should be, and I’m glad we finally got to that because that’s really how it should be. We should all be rowing in the same boat together.”

Yet as attention turns from the USMNT and the 2022 tournament to the USWNT and the 2023 World Cup, there has been an uptick in concern about the women’s readiness.

For the first time since 1993, the team lost three games in a row, falling to England, Spain and Germany late this year. While the U.S. managed to avoid a fourth straight loss, ending their 2022 schedule with a win over Germany, questions remain.

Foudy sees the losses as part of the process for a developing roster.

“You’re playing against three of the best teams in the world who could easily win this next World Cup. And that’s what you want to see at that level,” she said. “And they’re still so young. I mean, that’s the thing we often forget when people start to panic about what is happening with this team.

“This is a rebuild. That’s going to take some time.”

Foudy pointed to forwards Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith as bright spots for the squad.

“The power of those two young gunners is incredible to see,” she said, noting that their ability to open up space for Alex Morgan in the No. 9 spot makes it hard for teams to handle the USWNT attack.

“The challenge, of course, is that you can’t just rely on those two to be carrying the team, which is what a lot of that looked like in those four games,” she added.

Still, the USWNT great sees potential in the front five, including Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan. Catarina Macario should also make her return from an ACL tear in early 2023.

While the team has dealt with a plethora of injuries, there has been “too much discussion” about the team’s missing players from both the media and U.S. Soccer staff, Foudy said.

“Guess what? That’s part of soccer,” she said. “Yes, the U.S. has a ton of injuries right now. But that’s part of it. It’s the next person up.”

Other national teams have players missing, Foudy noted. Spain’s Alexia Putellas is sidelined with a torn ACL, while England’s Beth Mead recently tore her ACL and could miss next summer’s World Cup.

“It happens for every team, every country. It is not just with this national team,” Foudy said. “And so do they miss Macario? Yes. Do they miss maybe a [Christen] Press if she was able to go? Yes. Tobin Heath is injured. I mean, Sam Mewis? Julie Ertz?

“The reality is, they may not have them [next summer]. And so you, you just deal with the hand you’re dealt.”

The USWNT must rely on its depth as they move into 2023 and continue to prepare for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“When I hear anything coming from some of the staff at U.S. Soccer, like, enough,” Foudy said. “We know about the people who are injured. Let’s focus on what you have.”

Another World Cup discussion, though, has been fun for Foudy: The debate over whether the beautiful game should be called football or soccer.

Foudy, alongside Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm, participated in a Frito-Lay ad campaign about the debate, which gave her the chance to work with legendary director Michael Bay.

“He was amazing and, of course, hysterical,” Foudy said.

While she came in knowing the script for the commercial, she and Chastain were allowed to riff off of one another at the direction of Bay.

“That’s the beauty of Michael, too, is you can kind of pivot while he’s [directing],” she added. “He’s seen things and he’s reacting to stuff. He was great.”

The campaign was headlined by David Beckham and Peyton Manning, two of the best in their respective sports. Also joining the star-studded cast were Javier “Chicarito” Hernández and Tim Howard.

“It was just so fun to see it come together,” Foudy said. “When you’re hearing about where their shoots were, how they were doing and to watch the different iterations of it.”

Working alongside Chastain was not new to Foudy — after all, they were teammates for the entirety of their national team careers. The two-time World Cup winner admits that whenever the two hang out for long periods of time, “trouble ensues.”

“In a good way, good dribble,” she assured. “It was really fun.”

The commercial, which has run throughout the men’s World Cup, elicits “healthy debate,” which Foudy loves.

“The thing I hear from people who’ve watched it, and so many people have responded to it, is they just love it, right?” she said. “They love that it’s fun, it’s bringing people together, they’re debating it in a healthy way. The world needs a lot more healthy debate, in a way. Which is essentially what the World Cup does, which is what the commercial does.”