It’s certainly no secret that this U.S. women’s national team World Cup roster looks much different from the last.
With many veterans having retired or out due to injury, the USWNT is bringing a number of newcomers down under. In total 14 of the 23 players on the provisional roster have never played in a World Cup.
Among them are players who have solidified their spots since 2019, like Sophia Smith and Naomi Girma, who are still young but bring a dominating presence to the squad. Others, like Alyssa Thompson, are just a few caps in and still attempting to find their way.
Defender Alana Cook has factored heavily for the USWNT the last couple matches, including getting her first goal against Ireland in April. With club experience both internationally and domestically, Cook is no stranger to the world’s biggest stages from a club standpoint. Now, she’ll do it for the USWNT.
Also eligible to play for England, Cook’s first senior international call-up actually came for the Lionesses, before being called up to the USWNT in October 2019. Since joining OL Reign in 2021, Cook helped the squad to the NWSL Shield in 2022 and was named to the NWSL’s Best XI in 2021 and 2022.
Savannah DeMelo’s stellar start to the NWSL season has been rewarded with a provisional World Cup roster spot. Despite call-ups to the USWNT in September and October of 2022, DeMelo hasn’t made an international appearance, meaning that her debut will likely either come at the World Cup or in the send-off game against Wales. Her lack of experience could factor in, or it could not – and if it doesn’t, look out: DeMelo scored in four of five appearances to start the season and forced an own goal against Chicago.
After earning her first call-up to the USWNT in 2018, Emily Fox finally earned significant time in camp in 2022, making 14 appearances and notching one assist. She’s had six appearances to start the year, and even scored her first NWSL goal against Ireland in April.
Fox is one that can go anywhere on the back line, be it right or left. USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn has called the defender “versatile” before, which could prove helpful down under if Andonovski decides he wants to play around with his lineup. With Sauerbrunn out, it’s even more likely that Fox could end up a starter in the first slate of games as Crystal Dunn continues to regain fitness and stamina after returning from childbirth.
Naomi Girma may have once been the future of the USWNT’s defense, but with the absence of Becky Sauerbrunn that future is now here. Girma might just be two years into her professional career, and 15 appearances into her international career, but you wouldn’t know it.
In her rookie NWSL season, Girma was named not only Rookie of the Year, but Defender of the Year as well. She’ll take on a lot of responsibility in her first World Cup, but there might not be another player better suited for it.
While Huerta has become a mainstay over the last few years, the 2023 World Cup will be her first major tournament with the squad. While she missed out on the 2021 Olympics, she helped the team to the 2022 Concacaf Women’s Championship title, and she’ll look to replicate that success in Australia and New Zealand.
After receiving her first national team call-up in 2019, goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury has now been named to the World Cup roster. Slotting in at the third-string goalkeeper slot, Kingsbury has just one international appearance, but it was a clean sheet in a 9-0 win over Uzbekistan in April 2022. She’s also had a solid start to the NWSL season, and statistically has always been one of the NWSL’s best keepers.
Kristie Mewis has been in the USWNT ranks for a long time, having earned 15 caps between 2013 and 2014 before falling off the radar. Suffering two serious knee injuries during that time, Mewis fought her way back and was rewarded. Under Vlatko Anodnovski, the midfielder has seen a resurgence in her national team career. Mewis is now one of the more experienced players that is going to New Zealand, despite never having played in a World Cup, with 51 international appearances under her belt.
Murphy made her first appearance for the senior national team on a trip to Australia in 2021. She recorded a shutout in that match against the Matildas, and she’ll look for similar success on her return trip.
After bursting onto the NWSL scene in 2021, Trinity Rodman received her first call-up in 2022, scoring in just her third national team appearance. She made 10 appearances in 2022, scoring two goals.
A Ballon d’Or nominee in 2022, Rodman also became the highest paid player in NWSL history in February 2022. While she’s intermittently started since her first call-up, the injury to Mallory Swanson provides Rodman with the ability to solidify herself as a starter. Nobody can replace Swanson, but Rodman has the ability to balance out the USWNT starting attack, both with her scoring and as one of the team’s best passers.
Ashley Sanchez is no stranger to the national team program, having spent a lot of time on the youth national teams. In 2016, she featured at the U-20 Women’s World Cup and the U-17 WWC, becoming the first player in U.S. history to play in multiple World Cups in the same year. She also received her first national team call-up that year (although her first cap came in 2021), meaning that she’s been in the system a long time. Sanchez is a player that’s good at creating chances and taking them, and has had a good start to the NWSL season.
The 2022 NWSL Player of the Year also featured as one of the best players internationally and was named U.S. Soccer Player of the Year. But she’ll be making her first World Cup appearance this summer. And while some have tabbed her as “the future” of the USWNT, Smith has made it known that she’s intent on being that player right now.
Through 29 international appearances, Smith has 12 goals, with her most recent coming against Germany last November. She’s made just two appearances to start 2023, having dealt with some injury issues that kept her sidelined earlier in the year. But she’s back healthy, and started the NWSL season with seven goals and five assists in seven appearances, which once again places her as one of the best players in the league.
Sullivan helped lead the Washington Spirit to the 2021 NWSL title, and since then she has become a starter in the USWNT midfield while Julie Ertz missed time due to injury and then pregnancy. She could hold onto that starting spot even with Ertz’s return.
18-year-old Alyssa Thompson’s career has been on a fast path ever since she made her USWNT debut last October. Since then, she’s made three appearances on the USWNT, and was called up in April as a replacement for Mallory Swanson.
Drafted first-overall in the 2023 NWSL Draft, Thompson has made 11 appearances in her rookie pro season for Angel City FC and scored three goals – which is the second-most on the team and includes just 11 minutes into her NWSL regular season debut and just five minutes into her pro debut against Club América. While young, Thompson’s abilities cannot be understated and she brings a boost down under with the USWNT.
Although it may seem crazy, this will be Lynn Williams’ first World Cup appearance. The three-time NWSL champion, NWSL Golden Boot and MVP winner has been a regular on the USWNT since 2016, but did not crack the roster in 2019.
But since her return from a hamstring tear last season, Williams has left no doubts about her inclusion on the roster this go around. She might be the best player that the USWNT has to take down under at the forward position, having had a hot start to the NWSL season with Gotham FC in which she’s scored five times and taken sole possession of the second-most goals in NWSL history. What’s even more scary for the opposition? Williams told Snacks back in May that she still feels like she’s getting back to being herself on the pitch.