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USWNT roster: Who’s in and who’s out after early World Cup exit

(Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

After a disappointing Round of 16 exit at the 2023 World Cup, the U.S. women’s national team will regroup and turn its attention to coming back with a vengeance at the 2024 Paris Olympics. It’s unclear if head coach Vlatko Andonovski will be the one leading that charge. His contract expires at the end of 2023, and his performance will be the subject of an internal review following the team’s failure to make the semifinals of a World Cup for the first time in program history.

From there, roster decisions will be of utmost importance with less than a year to right the USWNT ship. Those decisions are also not as linear as they might seem, with the U.S. likely to continue some of the roster changes they started going into 2023. The talent pool is as deep as ever, with a new generation of young players with professional experience eager for a chance to play at the international level.

The group will also have a number of key contributors hopefully returning from injury, longtime veterans making decisions about their careers and players’ form naturally fluctuating over the next year.

The two-time winners considering their futures

We already know that two of the two-time World Champions who made their return for the 2023 World Cup will not be back for the Olympics. Megan Rapinoe announced prior to the tournament that she would retire at the end of 2023, and Julie Ertz revealed her own intention to retire from the national team after the USWNT’s Round of 16 exit.

Rapinoe served as a substitute in 2023, but Ertz quickly proved herself indispensable in a center-back partnership with young stalwart Naomi Girma. Her absence will usher in further change, and her contributions will be greatly missed.

Other two-time champions have decisions of their own to make. Kelley O’Hara’s desire to galvanize a young team and lead them through high-pressure situations has never waned, but her fitness this summer also never allowed her to make those contributions on the field. Becky Sauerbrunn, whose lingering injury left her off the World Cup roster, is even one degree further removed from a return to the U.S.

Alex Morgan and Alyssa Naeher both played significant minutes for the USWNT in 2023, stepping up in different moments to lead the squad. Both go back to their NWSL teams with questions of form lingering. With Naeher 35 years old and Morgan 34, where they fit in the USWNT’s future likely depends on who is coaching the team going forward.

Co-captain Lindsey Horan assumed a USWNT leadership role at the World Cup. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

The 2019 connectors

Lindsey Horan becoming USWNT co-captain in 2023 felt like the U.S. coaching staff’s way of forging a clear connection between the 2015 veterans and 2023 rookies. Horan headlines a somewhat small group of players who won the World Cup for the first time in 2019 and returned to the tournament in 2023.

Horan, Rose Lavelle, Crystal Dunn and Emily Sonnett are the only players now tasked with carrying that legacy forward, indicating a down period in U.S. talent identification during those players’ formative years. Good news, the USWNT has a number of very talented young players under the age of 25 who will continue the high standards the team has become known for. But if there is one specific failure of the U.S. development system, it’s how many players were relied upon to carry the team from 2015 to 2023, and how few of the players who got caps in that period stuck with the team in major tournaments.

Two other players who should rejoin their 2019 World Cup teammates are Mallory Swanson and Tierna Davidson. The NWSL teammates missed the 2023 tournament due to varying injury return timelines, and though they are in a tumultuous club situation in Chicago, having more time to regain their form could make all the difference.

The young 2023ers

While they didn’t get as much time to develop through the World Cup as they would have liked, the young players making their major tournament debuts in 2023 will be better in the future for their experience. Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Naomi Girma and Emily Fox all learned what it takes to start in a World Cup game, how to process the highs and lows of the tournament, and how to manage their fitness while carrying heavy minutes.

Ashley Sanchez and Alana Cook were surprisingly held off the field for the four games the U.S. played in Australia and New Zealand, while Savannah DeMelo — a surprising roster inclusion — got an incredible amount of experience in the group stage. Those coaching decisions will have ramifications in the future, though they shouldn’t affect any players’ standing going into the next international cycle.

Alyssa Thompson gained World Cup experience likely a cycle early due to the injury to Swanson, making appearances as a substitute as she continues to add elements to her game. And the one player who deserves to hold space in this group despite her absence is Catarina Macario, who would have been right alongside her teammates if not for setbacks in her ACL recovery. Back in training with new club Chelsea, Macario has to be in any future USWNT plans that include the other players in this group.

Lynn Williams didn't get as much playing time as many expected at the World Cup. (Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images)

League veterans competing for another shot

If the U.S. has few players who can carry the memories of 2019 into 2024, they do have a number of players who worked their way onto the squad later in their careers. Kristie Mewis and Lynn Williams both made the last Olympic roster (though Williams was an alternate), and Williams has been effective in her minutes in both major tournaments.

The assets Sofia Huerta brings to the U.S. as a crossing specialist are clear despite few minutes played at the 2023 World Cup. Naeher’s heirs at the goalkeeping position also likely come from this group: Casey Murphy and Aubrey Kingsbury will have the advantage of their camp experiences, while other keepers push for consideration based on league play.

And then there is Andi Sullivan, a player who seemed to have just missed a number of major international tournaments before making her World Cup debut in 2023. Despite being let down by Andonovski’s system, Sullivan was steady while carrying heavy minutes in the U.S. midfield and catering well to Horan and Lavelle’s tendencies. She’ll be battling for position against the next generation, but will have experience on her side.

The next generation of talent

While the U.S. has been undergoing many roster changes in recent years, they have room to get even younger still. Players like Jaedyn Shaw, Sam Coffey, Olivia Moultrie, Mia Fishel, Jaelin Howell and Jenna Nighswonger are all getting experience and contributing in professional systems, with some of them forgoing the old pipeline pathways of the NCAA system.

Beyond young American players already proving their worth at the professional level, youth internationals at the collegiate level are also rising through the ranks. Alyssa Thompson’s little sister, Gisele Thompson, trains with NWSL club Angel City, as have other standouts like Simone Jackson. USC standout Croix Bethune was listed on Andonovski’s provisional roster for Concacaf World Cup qualifying, and other talents like Trinity Byars, Lexi Missimo and Lilly Reale will be eager to step up and fill the positional gaps left by the exits of longtime veterans.

That this is not even the exhaustive list of players available to refresh a USWNT project that didn’t get the balance right in 2023 should be exciting for fans of the team. It also represents just how daunting the year ahead might be for the coaching staff. After big wins, there is always an impulse to run it back with the players you know. In the face of failure, the future might look a little different.

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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