The 18-player USWNT Olympic roster dropped on Wednesday, marking manager Emma Hayes’s first major tournament roster.

With Hayes's selections, the team appears to be going big on potential and versatility, while conceding a certain amount of experience. Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn as the team’s most experienced players, while the average age of the roster is 26.8 — the fourth-youngest Olympic roster and the youngest overall since 2008.

The current lineup averages 58 international caps per player, down from 111 at the Tokyo Olympics. It will be the first major tournament experience for Jenna Nighswonger, Korbin Albert, Sam Coffey, and Jaedyn Shaw. Additionally, Shaw becomes just the fifth teenager to ever make a USWNT Olympic roster, and the first since Mallory Swanson in 2016.

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"Making an Olympic roster is a huge privilege and an honor and there is no denying that it was an extremely competitive process among the players and that there were difficult choices, especially considering how hard everyone has worked over the past 10 months," said Hayes in a US Soccer press release. "Choosing an 18-player roster plus alternates involved many considerations, but I am excited for the group we have selected and I’m looking forward to building on the work from last camp as we head into the send-off matches and then onto France. These are great opportunities for us to continue to show the progress we are making."

Only eight players from the Tokyo Olympics squad punched their tickets to Paris, while nine players will become first-time Olympians. 

Hayes appears to be thinking about the future, but this group will be looking to improve upon a disappointing 2023 Women's World Cup showing — or even top their bronze medal placement at the last Olympics.

"Everything we're doing is a step-by-step approach to get us as close as we possibly can to our best level, to our best version of ourselves," Hayes told media on Wednesday. "As I explained so far, this is a team that's making really good progress in doing that, and my interest and investment is getting our performances right."

One notable absence is USWNT and NWSL veteran Alex Morgan, who will miss the Summer Games for the first time since 2008. Hayes said Wednesday that it was difficult to adhere to the Olympics' 16 outfield player-limit throughout the roster-honing process.

"It was a tough decision of course, especially considering Alex's history and record with this team," Hayes said. "But I felt that I wanted to go in another direction."

"I want to talk about what an amazing player and human Alex Morgan has been," she continued. "There are players on the roster in the forward areas performing well, and the decision to take those players was one that we certainly deliberated over, but I think it's a balanced roster."

Without Morgan, not a single player on the USWNT Olympic roster has won a gold medal. 

"Today, I’m disappointed about not having the opportunity to represent our country on the Olympic stage," Morgan tweeted in response to her exclusion. "This will always be a tournament that is close to my heart and I take immense pride any time I put on the crest," she continued. "In less than a month, I look forward to supporting this team and cheering them on alongside the rest of our country. LFG"

Full USWNT roster:

Alternates: Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Hal Hershfelt (Washington Spirit), Croix Bethune (Washington Spirit), Lynn Williams (Gotham FC)

The USWNT cruised through their final game prior to naming their 18-player Olympic roster on Tuesday, defeating Korea Republic 3-0 in a rain-soaked game that saw significant rotation to the starting XI.

Manager Emma Hayes replaced nine of Saturday's starters with players vying for a major tournament roster spot, a move that resulted in interesting returns. Alex Morgan was back in the starting lineup, while center-back Sam Staab earned her first international start in her second game with the team.

Crystal Dunn started the match as a forward then opened the floodgates with her first goal in 75 international matches. Sophia Smith came on as a reserve in the second half alongside Mallory Swanson and Trinity Rodman, promptly doubling the scoreline at a tight angle for a sharp finish. Casey Murphy started in goal, making a number of clutch saves to keep South Korea off of the scoresheet.

But the biggest moment of the game belonged to Ajax midfielder Lily Yohannes, who scored in her first-ever USWNT cap.

The teenager was immediately mobbed by her teammates — including most of the US bench — in celebration as nearly 20,000 fans gave her a standing ovation. Just a few days shy of her 17th birthday, Yohannes is the third-youngest to score for the national team and the youngest player to make her debut since USWNT legend Kristine Lilly took the field for the first time in 2001.

Yohannes is likely on the Olympic roster bubble, but is of great interest to the US as a talented connecting midfielder. But having been born in Virginia before moving to Amsterdam as a child, Yohannes could still possibly decide to play for the Netherlands national team.

Hayes will be making final roster decisions in the coming weeks, setting the Paris-bound squad up for two send-off friendlies at the end of July. 18 players will make the official Olympic roster, alongside four alternates for training purposes and in case of injury.

The USWNT’s first match of the Emma Hayes era went off with a bang as the team beat South Korea 4-0 on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado.

In the game, forward Mallory Swanson had a brace, scoring her first two goals for the US since returning from a torn patellar tendon suffered last April. Defender Tierna Davidson also found the back of the net twice, with both goals coming off set pieces.

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"Thirty percent of all tournament goals are scored from (set pieces), so it was an opportunity," Hayes told reporters after the game. "I’ve seen, historically, this program be good at it. I want to return to that, so we have to excel. And for me, that demand won’t decline."

The match also saw the return of Catarina Macario to the starting lineup for the first time since 2022. Macario has slowly been returning to action following an ACL tear, and had a hand in one of Davidson’s set piece goals on Saturday.

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Despite the USWNT's success, there was one glaring omission from Saturday's lineup: Alex Morgan remained on the bench, with Hayes noting that she chose to rest the decorated forward as a precaution.

"[Morgan] felt yesterday — this is an important issue to raise — maybe stretching a little bit her pelvic area," she said. "I told her yesterday I'm not going to take any risks today, because I want her to play Tuesday."

As the team looks to cut the roster down to 18 players in preparation for July's Paris Olympics, a lot will have to be decided. But with her first game as head coach in the books, Hayes is looking confidently to the future.

"I don’t feel relief. I feel re-energized," Hayes said. "I want to coach this group and they want to be coached. You can see we’re building something.

"There’s lots of work to do. There’s lots of holes in our play, no question, but it was a good start."

The San Diego Wave are without some key players, and they don’t expect to get them back anytime soon. 

Alex Morgan, Sofia Jakobsson, Melanie Barcenas, Abby Dahlkemper, and Naomi Girma are all currently on the team’s injury list. On Monday, head coach Casey Stoney was asked if she expected any of them to return to the pitch in the near future. 

"No, unfortunately not," was her response. The Wave is set to play Utah on Wednesday.

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While Stoney hasn't yet provided anything else definitive, absences from Morgan and Girma leave behind a pretty big hole in the team roster, particularly with the Olympics — not to mention the preceding USWNT send-off friendlies — just around the corner. Morgan has been sidelined with ankle trouble since the team's late April match against Orlando, while Girma’s first game on the injury list was against Seattle. 

Stoney, however, has said that the Wave doesn’t play any differently with or without the missing players.

"It doesn’t really affect the way we play," she said following the team’s recent loss to Seattle. "We just needed to have more patience. We still had some senior players out there tonight that could have impacted that and needed to impact that and did in the second half."

San Diego currently sits in 10th place with seven points, having won two games in their last five matches.

USWNT stalwart Alex Morgan will miss at least one week of NWSL action after suffering a left ankle knock in her last club appearance, Wave manager Casey Stoney said on Thursday.

Morgan was helped off the field after rolling her ankle in the later stages of the Wave’s 1-0 loss to the Orlando Pride last weekend, despite the San Diego side being out of available substitutes.

“She's got an ankle injury and she's out for this weekend, and then it'll be week by week from there,” Stoney said, confirming that Morgan’s been ruled out for Saturday’s showdown with NWSL newcomer Bay FC.

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Depending on its severity, Morgan’s ankle issue might have larger ramifications than missing a few weeks of NSWL play. Morgan was added to the team's Gold Cup roster after an ACL injury sidelined young striker Mia Fishel, and she's since made a number of USWNT starts in the team's Gold Cup and SheBelieves wins. A long-term injury could potentially derail the center forward’s Olympic plans.

With her return timeline uncertain, it's possible the injury could also impact Morgan's ability to participate in new head coach Emma Hayes' first U.S. friendlies in June and July.

Morgan's injury concerns aren't uncommon in the U.S. player pool, but add a sense of urgency as Hayes eyes the NWSL for top-performing players in the upcoming weeks. Gotham's Tierna Davidson and Rose Lavelle have also been dealing with injuries: Lavelle has yet to appear for Gotham, while Davidson exited last weekend's match early with a hamstring injury.

Gotham has yet to issue an update concerning Davidson's status.

Alex Morgan was named to the FIFA FIFpro Women’s World 11 for 2023 on Monday at The Best FIFA Football Award Ceremony.

It’s the sixth time that Morgan has been named to the World 11, and her third consecutive World 11 recognition. Morgan was also named to the World 11 in 2016, 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2022.

A total of 23 players were named as finalists for the award, including USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Over 28,000 professional players around the world vote on the accolade. It’s the only global player award voted on exclusively by players.

Morgan started in all 15 USWNT games in 2023, scoring two goals and registering five assists. She also featured in her fourth women’s World Cup for the USWNT. In the NWSL, Morgan had seven goals and five assists through 19 appearances for San Diego Wave FC. She was named to the NWSL Best XI Second Team for her NWSL season.

Two of Spain’s Women’s World Cup winners made the list – Aitana Bonmatí and Olga Carmona. Bonmatí was also named the women’s footballer of the year.

A total of seven England players made the World 11: Mary Earps, Alex Greenwood, Lucy Bronze, Ella Toone, Keira Walsh, Alessia Russo and Lauren James.

Morgan was the lone USWNT player on the list, with US Soccer Player of the Year Naomi Girma absent from the list of finalists entirely.

The U.S. women’s national team of 2023 is not the one most adult fans remember from their youth. But the USWNT that changed the world of soccer in the United States and beyond are still influencing the current American squad. 

The youngest member of the 2023 World Cup team was then-18-year-old Alyssa Thompson. And she carries advice from veteran USWNT players with her today. 

The USWNT’s group stage match with Portugal features in Nextflix’s docuseries about the club, “Under Pressure: The U.S Women’s National Team.” The match ended in a 0-0 draw and the World Cup ended without a victory for the U.S. But after the draw, veteran forward Alex Morgan gave a speech to the locker room that had a particular impact on Thompson, but was cut from the docuseries.

“I remember at the end of our Portugal game, Alex gave a really inspiring speech. It was just very scary, that game, and the result was obviously not what we wanted, but we got through so we were just thinking about the next game,” Thompson said to TheWrap. “But Alex gave a really inspiring speech about how there’s going to be so [much], a lot of talk about our performance, our game, what we need to do, blah, blah, blah. But it’s about the 23 players in the room and we have to protect each other, and just be here together and not listen to the outside noise.” 

The result of the 2023 World Cup was not to the United State’s liking. The team did not advance past the round of 16, and they took a lot of public criticism for it — just as Morgan said they would. 

Morgan’s speech prepared Thompson for the heat of the World Cup and for the aftermath of the tournament. 

“I thought that was super important because there was so much people were saying, and knowing that your team has your back is the one thing that you need to win tournaments,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t matter what other people are saying. I felt after that we were so together. We were just ready to prove to other people, and to ourselves, [that] this is what we wanted, and these are the results that we need to get.”

A tennis player once again topped Forbes’ list of highest-paid female athletes, with Iga Swiatek taking over the top spot.

She becomes just the fourth athlete to top the list after Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Maria Sharapova. Both Williams and Osaka had maintained a hold on the list in recent years, with Osaka taking the top spot in 2022. But Williams has retired and Osaka sat out the 2023 season to have her first child, leaving the top spot for Swiatek.

The 22-year-old Polish tennis player brought in an estimated $23.9 million in 2023, which included $9.9 million in on-court earnings after winning the women’s singles title at the French Open. She also added four new endorsement deals.

Twelve of the 20 highest-paid women athletes play tennis, as well as nine of the top 10. Eileen Gu, who came in second on the list, is the only non-tennis player to feature inside the top 10. She made $22.1 million in 2023, with the majority of her earnings coming from endorsements.

Coco Gauff, who won the 2023 US Open, placed third on the list with an estimated $21.7 million in earnings.

Even despite her break, Osaka still sits at fifth on the list having brought in $15 million in endorsements. She’s set to make her return to competitive tennis in the new year, which will include an appearance at the Australian Open.

Combined, the top 20 earners made roughly $226 million in 2023. It’s a drop from the $258 million made in 2022, but the retirement of Williams, who made $41.3 million last year, played a large part in the decrease. Still, the median for the top 20 earners increased from last year to $8.5 million (up from $7.3 million), and eight athletes surpassed $10 million. That number matches last year’s total – which set a record – and is double the number from 2021.

Other athletes inside the top 20 include golfer Nelly Korda, U.S. women’s national soccer players Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, gymnast Simone Biles and WNBA star Candace Parker.

Alex Morgan weighed in on the NWSL expansion draft discourse Monday, saying the draft “should not exist.”

Her reaction came after her now-former San Diego Wave teammate Rachel Hill, who was selected in the expansion draft by Bay FC, posted to social media, thanking the Wave and their fans.

“Did not think I’d be sitting here writing this after only one season,” wrote Hill, who had chosen the Wave in free agency last season and signed a two-year contract through 2024. “I’ve loved every second I had in San Diego and I’m sad it’s come to an end like this.”

Morgan shared Hill’s post to her own Instagram, writing: “The NWSL expansion draft should not exist. Period. If you reach free agency and choose the club and city you want to play for, you deserve the [opportunity] to see that through. It was torture watching the expansion draft, really.”

The USWNT and San Diego Wave forward isn’t the only person to criticize the process. Multiple head coaches have done so in the last week, including Wave head coach Casey Stoney, who wrote: “We have to find a different way!!!! It can be done because I have done it!!!!!!”

Meanwhile, Laura Harvey of OL Reign, who lost two players to the expansion draft, wrote: “I’d just like to make it official. I dislike the expansion draft. I also dislike that I chose to be in England whilst it was on, so now it’s 1.30am and I’m wired. Thanks very much!”

North Carolina Courage head coach Sean Nahas also was critical of the process. Seven players were selected, five by Bay FC and two by Utah Royals FC. Of those players, two already have been traded, as San Diego brought back Sierra Enge – who had been selected by Bay FC – with the help of Houston while also trading with Utah for former OL Reign forward Elyse Bennett.

“I don’t think people actually realize the damage that is created by this process and what it does to players, clubs and those relationships,” Nahas wrote Saturday. “We should be protecting the league and not 9 players per roster. There needs to be another way.”

Before the draft, North Carolina and San Diego engaged in trades with the new teams to try and limit their losses in the draft and to maintain more control over the future of their lineups. OL Reign did not make any trades with either Bay FC or Utah Royals FC.

Utah Royals sporting director Kelly Cousins conceded after the draft that the process of expansion should change.

“When you get to draft day, it’s not nice for anyone, even for us, being in it,” Cousins said. “You’re picking a player, and a new player finds out in the moment, live on telly, that they go to another club. For us, that doesn’t sit well, I think it is something that probably should change because you’re saying a player could be uprooted. We’re a week away from Christmas, and now they might have to move to the other side of the country.”

But Bay FC general manager Lucy Rushton called the expansion draft “imperative.”

“I think it’s essential because I think without it, it would have been very difficult for us to amass a roster from within the NWSL,” she said. “Is it the nicest mechanism through which to acquire players? No, probably not, not for the players and it’s tough. I certainly think it’s essential and especially now, having gone through the process, it scares me to think what some of the numbers might have looked like that teams might have asked for to trade their players.”

The league will go through an expansion process again in a couple of years, with Boston and one other team set to begin play in 2026.

Lindsey Horan wants to see better coaches and better youth development for the U.S. women’s national team.

A four-episode Netflix docuseries released Tuesday, titled “Under Pressure,” chronicles the USWNT’s journey at the 2023 World Cup, which ended in disappointment.

In the fourth episode, co-captain Horan offered up some criticism after the team’s exit in the Round of 16, which was its earliest ever at a World Cup. Horan, who plays for French club Olympique Lyonnais, attributes the disappointing result in part to the rest of the world catching up – and in part to the evolving style of play.

“The international game, it’s such a nice style of football,” Horan said. “You’re playing these little tiny passes here and there. They’re so confident on the ball. They’re so technical. We need to progress in this possession style of play. We need better coaches. We need better youth development. We need more investment there.”

Some of the issues with the USWNT also can be traced back to former head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who resigned following the World Cup.

“I don’t think we were set up well to go on and have the success to win it,” Lynn Williams said in the series. “When you only win three out of the ten games, there’s no way you’re gonna have that coach carry on. … When we’re held to this standard, the coaching staff also has to be.”

Alex Morgan, Horan’s co-captain, noted that both she and Horan had “really honest” conversations with Andonovski. But she also knows that not every player felt as comfortable or could be as vulnerable with their coach.

And Horan also acknowledged that some of the responsibility for the team’s failure fell on the players.

“Obviously Vlatko gives us the game plan every single game, but we’re the players on the field,” she said.

New head coach Emma Hayes has brought some life back to the squad, with players excited about the new direction. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will lead the team until Hayes joins in May following the conclusion of Chelsea’s season. But the Paris Olympics start in July, leading some to question whether or not the team can succeed in the short term. And for some, succeeding in the short term is imperative.

“How we silence the critics going forward now, in this moment,” former USWNT forward Tobin Heath said near the end of the series, “is we go to an Olympics, and we win an Olympics.”