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USWNT youth movement arrives with Olivia Moultrie and Jaedyn Shaw

Olivia Moultrie (center) and Jaedyn Shaw (center-right) played together for the USWNT at the U-20 World Cup in 2022. (Tim Nwachukwu/FIFA via Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national team’s youth movement has arrived, with Olivia Moultrie and Jaedyn Shaw each earning call-ups for the team’s October friendlies.

Moultrie and Shaw join Alyssa Thompson, who rounds out the teenage contingent as the only one of the 18-year-olds with World Cup experience. The trio of phenoms represent the USWNT’s future.

“It’s really important that we create a pathway for them to integrate into the environment and learn from it,” interim head coach Twila Kilgore said Wednesday, noting that every time that players are introduced to the USWNT environment and international soccer, they “learn something” that they can translate to their game.

“The idea is we basically accelerate their development,” she said. “They’re also talented and capable of helping now. It’s just the decision of whether now is the right time and also if they’re outperforming their teammates. So we think that bringing them in and exposing them to the environment is a plus both in the environment and in their home markets and will generate some success moving forward.”

The USWNT is in the process of hiring a permanent head coach, with a target deadline of December. The new head coach also will have valuable information about the young players and how they adjusted to the environment thanks to the recent camps.

“Every player that’s called into camp has an opportunity to prove themselves,” Kilgore said. “… I think Jaedyn and Olivia both bring really special qualities.”

Kilgore also sees the differences between Moultrie and Shaw. As a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, Moultrie has a strong presence between the lines, understanding her positioning while also defending “really well.”

“She’s playing on both sides of the ball, which is really important at this level, and we’re excited about that,” Kilgore said. “I’ve had a few conversations with Portland and they’re very complimentary of her development and eager to support her. In Olivia’s case, she’s a long term player for U.S. Soccer. She’s been through our youth system. I think she’s got a pretty good head on her shoulders in terms of understanding patience, not just on the field but in the process.”

As for Shaw, Kilgore pointed to a special quality possessed by the San Diego Wave forward.

“There’s very few people that can play a final ball the way that she does,” she said. “And she’s learning pretty specific partnerships at her club, but she’s also capable of creating those types of partnerships with other players because of the ability to play different types of balls.”

Thompson, meanwhile, is someone that the USWNT is “really pleased” with; she received her first call-up in October 2022 and played at the 2023 World Cup. But she’s still learning from every camp.

“She’s done a lot in the last year,” Kilgore said. “And she’s, in my opinion, right on track to where she should be. These things don’t happen overnight. This is somebody that could potentially be a generational talent. And it’s really, really important that we continue to support her as she goes along this journey.”

Moultrie, Shaw and Thompson all played together the youth national team at the 2022 U-20 World Cup, and all made the jump to the NWSL over the last several years. Moultrie led the way in 2021, followed by Shaw in 2022 and Thompson in 2023.

Still, Kilgore reiterated the difference between international soccer and the NWSL, underlining how much the teen trio will learn as they grow with the USWNT.

“There is a really big difference between the way that soccer is played in the NWSL and the international game,” she said. “And there’s also a big difference between training and playing in your club environment and training and playing at the international level. So again, this is just about exposure for these players, teaching, learning and obviously competing, whether it’s in training, in games, but it’s about a long term process. And it’s not about the immediate, it’s about the future.”