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USWNT lineup: Projecting the 2023 World Cup starting XI

The USWNT kicks off the group stage of the World Cup against Vietnam on Friday, July 21. (John Todd/USSF/Getty Images)

Players for the U.S. women’s national team will reportedly get the call they’ve been waiting for this week, as head coach Vlatko Andonovski names his roster for the 2023 World Cup. We’ve already discussed who we think might be on the plane to New Zealand, with most of the question marks surrounding players on the fringes of the final 23-person roster.

The team’s preferred starting XI is slightly more certain, though a number of injuries have cast doubt in key areas, most notably on the backline with captain Becky Sauerbrunn confirming her absence due to a foot injury. But if the U.S. had to play the World Cup final tomorrow, here’s how I think the team should line up.

Naomi Girma is a locked-in starter for the USWNT at the World Cup. (Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

The backline

Alyssa Naeher, GK

Naeher’s save percentage with the Chicago Red Stars this season has given many fans reason for pause, but given the backline she has in front of her, experience should still win the day. Casey Murphy hasn’t been immune to nerves on the international level, with communication sometimes suffering in consequence. Naeher has experience being vocal with her defense, which gives her the edge in a different training environment.

Naomi Girma, CB

Girma has consistently been one of the best American center-backs for club and country since her arrival to professional soccer in 2022. If she can play every game for the USWNT in the World Cup, they would be foolish not to start her.

Alana Cook, CB

Longtime USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn was originally one of my choices to start alongside Girma, as her experience and form still place her in the top tier of the USWNT defender pool. But Sauerbrunn’s absence, announced over the weekend due to injury, tips the scales. While her possible replacements come in with much less international experience, Alana Cook notched the most minutes of any U.S. player in 2022, which should make the transition into a major tournament easier.

Emily Fox, OB

Fox is almost an underrated asset for the U.S. as an outside back. She can comfortably stay on the flank as a wide outlet, she’s a solid 1v1 defender, and she has the ability to cut centrally in possession to give her team a variety of looks in the attack. She also has crucial positional versatility, which will likely land her at right back in order for her to be paired consistently with Crystal Dunn.

Crystal Dunn, OB

Dunn, a natural attacker who plays midfield for the Portland Thorns, shares many of Fox’s attributes while also bringing experience from past international success. Dunn recently completed her first full 90-minute performance for Portland in the NWSL after returning from the birth of her son last fall, and she should be ready to play key minutes for the U.S. at outside back in New Zealand.

Ashley Sanchez seems like the best choice to replace Rose Lavelle as a starter due to injury. (James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)

The midfield

Andi Sullivan, DM

Even with the return of Julie Ertz, Andi Sullivan should be the first choice starter for the U.S. in the defensive midfield. Ertz has played limited minutes for Angel City FC thus far, and while her profile as a player hasn’t changed, she’s still not completely up to full speed. Sullivan has been her usual excellent self for the Washington Spirit in 2023 and deserves the full backing of the coaching staff as the USWNT’s first choice.

Lindsey Horan, AM

Horan should be well-rested going into the World Cup, having ended her season with Olympique Lyon in early June. When Horan is at her most mobile, she’s a very effective box-to-box midfielder who can also provide necessary defensive coverage when the team is in defensive transition. International midfield battles tend to be more physical than in club play, and Horan’s experience in a number of roles firmly places her in the starting XI.

Ashley Sanchez, AM

Typically, the role of the veteran playmaker for the USWNT is filled capably by Rose Lavelle, but the 28-year-old hasn’t played a competitive game since picking up an injury in the middle of April. So far, Lavelle’s place on the World Cup roster doesn’t seem in jeopardy, but she might make more sense as a substitute than as a player relied upon for a full 90 minutes at this moment. So enters Ashley Sanchez, who is having a productive season thus far for the Washington Spirit as a creative midfielder.

Lynn Williams could lead a rotating cast at left wing after Mallory Swanson's injury. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The attack

Lynn Williams, LW

One of the more wide-open competitions for playing time in the U.S. system comes at left winger, with Mallory Swanson’s injury absence making way for a rotating cast at the position. Trinity Rodman is capable of filling the same role, as is Megan Rapinoe, but Williams’ form in the NWSL and her defensive commitment to Andonovski’s shape gives her the edge.

Alex Morgan, CF

Williams, Rodman, Ashley Hatch and Sophia Smith can all shift centrally when called upon, but no one is as capable with their back to goal as Morgan, who has perfected the hold-up center forward role for the U.S.. Morgan’s responsibilities aren’t always just as an out-and-out scorer; she also plays in the trenches, creating space for the wingers to enter. More than that, she is an important leader on a frontline that is relatively inexperienced in major tournaments.

Sophia Smith, RW

Like Girma, Smith is one of the easiest starting decisions for Andonovski to make. She’s built up USWNT experience in the last two years, she’s one of the best American attackers in the NWSL, and she will have a chance to make this World Cup her own in her first major tournament appearance.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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