The U.S. women’s national team will head to the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand without a number of big names.
Longtime captain Becky Sauerbrunn, veteran forward Christen Press and young star Mallory Pugh Swanson are among the major absences from the squad due to injuries.
Sauerbrunn is missing what would have been her fourth World Cup due to a foot injury she suffered in April, as first reported by The Athletic. She later confirmed the news, writing that “heartbroken isn’t even the half of it.”
While she “hoped and worked and hoped” to make it back in time for the tournament, there ultimately was “too much variability in my return to play timeline,” she wrote. With 216 USWNT appearances, Sauerbrunn has the most experience of any veteran player on the USWNT. But she has faith in her teammates.
“To my teammates, I love you,” she wrote. “Please, take a minute to enjoy this moment and appreciate everything that brought you here—every second of hard work and every bit of good luck—and then get back to work and go win the whole f*cking thing!”
Mallory Swanson tore her patella tendon in her left knee during the April friendlies against Ireland, which has left her out of the 2023 World Cup. While she had a successful surgery shortly after the injury, she has a long road to recovery ahead of her.
There haven’t been many updates on Swanson’s status since then, although she has been a supporter on the sidelines at Chicago Red Stars matches.
Abby Dahlkemper has yet to return to the pitch after telling fans in February via TikTok that she had undergone back surgery in December. She had surgery to target sciatic nerve pain that had been impacting her left leg during the 2022 NWSL season.
“It turns out that I had a cyst and bone fragments hitting my nerve roots, so it was very much needed,” she said. As of February, her bones had already begun to fuse, which her doctor told her put her ahead of schedule. Back in May, Dahlkemper posted photos of her on the pitch, although she still remains out with her injury.
Star midfielder and the former No. 1 player in the world Sam Mewis has been out since August 2021 after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her right knee that was originally meant to keep her out six to eight weeks. In January, she announced that she had undergone another surgery on that same knee.
“I’ll be starting my rehab at home where my family can support me,” she wrote. “I gave everything I had after my last procedure in 2021. This has been a really difficult time for me personally and I’ve been devastated to be away from soccer for so long.”
Mewis has no timeline for her return to soccer, and she’s not expected to play in the NWSL this season.
One of the USWNT’s top midfielders, Catarina Macario tore her ACL last June while playing for UWCL team Olympique Lyonnais. In May, she announced that she “won’t be physically ready for selection,” after a lengthy rehab process. It confirmed what had been speculation for some time, as the injury recovery took longer than expected.
As of mid-April she had remained sidelined even from training. She recently signed with Chelsea, however, and that deal was contingent on a medical evaluation.
One of the more senior members of the USWNT, Tobin Heath hasn’t suited up for the red, white and blue since October 2021. Throughout 2022 she struggled with injuries, including a hamstring injury that ended her season with Arsenal. She later joined OL Reign, appearing in five matches, before once again being sidelined with an injury.
She underwent season-ending knee surgery in September 2022 and has been seen doing limited training. In February, Andonovski said that Heath was “absolutely” still under consideration for World Cup selection and was up for selection in April.
Star forward Christen Press has undergone a “unique journey” in her recovery since tearing her ACL last June. Back in March, she revealed on Instagram that she had undergone three knee surgeries in the span of eight months on the same knee. Still, she remained optimistic about her World Cup hopes and had recently been seen back in cleats and training with Angel City.
There is, however, still hope for Press to return to the NWSL this season.