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USWNT coach: Young players will ‘dominate’ next World Cup together

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Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith are likely to carry the next generation of the USWNT. (Photo by Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

The U.S. women’s national team’s World Cup run might have ended earlier than expected, but expectations will remain high for the program.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovoski is optimistic for the future of the USWNT, with players such as Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Naomi Girma, Emily Fox and Andi Sullivan – all of whom started in the elimination match against Sweden in their first World Cup – leading the way.

“These are players that will be here for years to come, for tournaments to come,” Andonovski said. “This tournament is a great experience for them, and I think they’ll dominate the next one together.”

Smith, 22, scored two goals in the team’s 3-0 win over Vietnam in its tournament opener. Girma, 23, and Fox, 25, started every match as part of a backline that surrendered just one goal over four World Cup games, and Sullivan, 27, did the same in the midfield. Rodman, 21, started three of four matches as a winger.

After the stunning early exit, there are sure to be some changes for the USWNT. Julie Ertz, for instance, announced she had likely played her last game after the team’s loss to Sweden in the Round of 16. Megan Rapinoe is set to retire after the 2023 season, and the future remains uncertain for veterans Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara and Crystal Dunn. The same goes for Andonovski after the USWNT’s earliest ever exit from the World Cup.

But the coach is confident in the future of the program and its young players.

“This team has a very bright future and I’m glad we could give them the opportunity we did,” Andonovski said.