The 2023 World Cup is fast approaching, with just six months to go until the tournament kicks off in Australia and New Zealand.
The U.S. women’s national team has spent the last six months already ramping up its preparation. And former USWNT stars have not been shy in offering their thoughts on the current roster, including Mia Hamm, Carli Lloyd and more.
Just Women’s Sports rounds up what former USWNT World Cup champions have said about the 2023 squad, which will continue to ratchet up its intensity level this month with a trip to New Zealand to face the Football Ferns.
The USWNT lost three games in a row in October and November before rebounding with a win against Germany to close out the year. While the losing streak sounded alarm bells, Foudy saw them as just 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 told Just Women’s Sports in December. “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 — who played with the USWNT from 1988 until 2004 and won the 1991 and 1999 World Cups with the squad — pointed to forwards Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith as bright spots. And while she acknowledged the team’s many injuries, she said there had been “too much discussion” about the missing players.
“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.”
Even with the injuries, Foudy likes the USWNT’s chances in Group E, which also includes the Netherlands, Vietnam and a winner from the intercontinental playoff.
“It’s a very winnable group,” Foudy said on CBS Sports’ “Attacking Third” podcast in November. “I think with the expanded field of 32 teams, you have a pretty clear delineation of those top two teams in the groups. I think it’s a good group. It’s a good matchup.”
Two young stars in particular have stood out to Hamm in the USWNT’s World Cup warm-ups, she told Bleacher Report in December: 24-year-old Mallory Pugh Swanson and 23-year-old Catarina Macario.
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,” said Hamm, who played for the USWNT from 1987-2004. “I’m really excited to watch her play next summer.”
Macario is nearing her return from an ACL injury she suffered in June, and Hamm praised her “savvy and understanding.”
Not all the discussion of the current iteration of the USWNT has been positive. After the team fell 2-1 to Germany in November for its third loss in a row, Lloyd called out the team on Twitter.
“The winning culture and mentality that has carried on from generation to generation within the USWNT has been fizzling away,” she wrote. “I said it when I retired. I saw it slipping away. Players have to embody that. That’s been our DNA since the ’80s, but not so much anymore.”
Lloyd spent 17 years on the national team before her retirement in 2021, and she played an integral role in the 2015 and 2019 World Cup runs. But the 40-year-old believes the 2023 World Cup will be “the hardest one to win yet,” she said on the “Attacking Third” podcast in November.
The November loss to Germany also prompted O’Reilly to question the USWNT’s urgency. The three-game losing streak marked the national team’s longest since 1993.
“Rewatched the match from last night and have to say I am tremendously disappointed,” O’Reilly wrote in a Twitter thread. “Simply not good enough in so many regards.”
The 37-year-old midfielder, who played for the USWNT from 2002-16, also expressed concern over the “midfield shape,” pointing out Germany’s movement between the 18-yard lines and the USWNT’s sluggishness at the end of the match. She did have praise for veteran forwards Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe and midfield substitute Ashley Sanchez.
Ahead of last summer’s World Cup qualifying tournament, the former USWNT goalkeeper talked about the growing scrutiny USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski would come under. Andonovski took the helm after the 2019 World Cup win, then led the team to the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
“Vlatko’s going to be a topic of discussion, I believe, going forward with regards to his choices,” Scurry told Just Women’s Sports in June. “He’s got a lot of pressure on him, and obviously he’s got a whole year until actually coaching the World Cup tournament itself. But this is going to be an indicator of his philosophies.”
In particular, she pointed out Andonovski’s “odd” answer to a question on Christen Press.
The veteran USWNT forward did not make the qualifying roster. While her absence was not a surprise, as she had just torn her ACL while playing for Angel City FC, Andonovski said the injury did not factor into his roster decision.
“Christen Press was not on the roster even before the injury,” Andonovski said.