The U.S. women’s national team will play their final matches of the calendar year in the next week, with the opportunity to place a definitive stamp on a tumultuous 2023. The two friendlies against China PR will be the team’s first games after the hiring of Emma Hayes as head coach, but they also serve as an extension of Twila Kilgore’s interim management, which will continue until May 2024.

The USWNT’s December roster follows something of a tradition in major tournament years, giving many veterans the international break off to rest and recuperate, while refreshing the larger player pool with non-World Cup players. But the possibility of any major changes in tactical approach seem slim, with Hayes yet to assert her full influence on the team’s style of play.

In lieu of a wholesale change in philosophy, here are three bold(ish) ideas for the U.S. during this international period beyond basic player evaluation.

Shake things up in the attack

While their actual goal-scoring output has improved in the months since the World Cup, it’s difficult to watch the USWNT without feeling like something is broken in the attack. The team went scoreless in two of their four World Cup matches, and they closed out their most recent friendly series having failed to score in three out of four halves.

Many of the issues with the USWNT’s once-vaunted attack go beyond any single player, but the young roster in December has a chance to break free of some of the systemic problems plaguing the front line. The games will provide an opportunity to get more tape on center forward Mia Fishel, who should have a fitness advantage over some of her teammates due to her club team, Chelsea, being in-season.

But shaking the USWNT attack out of its slump isn’t just about slotting in new faces at the No. 9 — the way the rest of the team relates to the center forward position also needs a rethink. Over the summer, the option of moving Sophia Smith to a more central position was presented as a zero-sum substitution of Alex Morgan, who started all of the U.S.’s World Cup matches. But with Morgan sitting the December friendlies out, the reason for moving Smith centrally would be less as a like-for-like replacement and more as a way of replacing her on the wings with a traditional winger.

Midge Purce and Lynn Williams are coming off of an excellent NWSL Championship performance. Both Gotham FC players ran the wings with confidence, getting the ball to the endline for low crosses and providing help defense when necessary. Purce found teammates for goals twice in that game, looking dangerous both on the ball and in dead-ball situations.

Having wingers who can cut inside to pull the defense out of shape is a great asset, but the U.S. at times has created a very narrow shape due to individual player tendencies. It could be worthwhile to run the old playbook with new talent in game one, but a total rethink in game two could shake the team out of its old patterns.

Rose Lavelle is one of the most experienced players on the USWNT's December roster. (Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images)

Share the armband

With a number of key veterans taking this international break off, the U.S. has an opportunity to share some of the burden of leadership in productive ways. Midfielder Lindsey Horan has been an able captain in 2023, but at times it appeared the team was over-relying on her to galvanize the group, while other experienced players didn’t seem empowered to communicate with clear authority.

Horan will likely feature heavily in both December matches since she plays her club football on the European schedule and is currently match-fit. But a bolder idea would be to give the 29-year-old a break, if simply to upend patterns in the USWNT midfield. Kilgore would do well to eventually leave her younger players operating without a safety net, whether that means entrusting Jaedyn Shaw with the No. 10 role or pairing Olivia Moultrie with the newly healthy Rose Lavelle.

Outside of giving the midfield an overdue refresh, Kilgore also has the opportunity to prioritize leaders who didn’t get a chance to blossom in Andonovski’s final year.

Casey Murphy is the most experienced goalkeeper on the roster and will surely be charged with organizing her backline. Lavelle is coming off a blistering performance in the 2023 NWSL Championship game, showcasing her experience as a player. And Lynn Williams will be the most tenured forward of the group. With communication lagging at times in the past year, a clean slate with new voices in the mix will be key for the team’s mentality going into 2024.

Give the Wave duo the keys to the defense

Abby Dahlkemper’s return to the USWNT is exciting for fans for reasons beyond her play on the pitch. Dahlkemper has recovered from a chronic back injury that greatly hampered the center-back in 2022, resulting in surgery. Making her NWSL return in August 2023, she’s looked as steady as ever, providing confidence in possession and showcasing her abilities off the ball to stunt an opponent’s attack.

She’s also settled in with current USWNT mainstay Naomi Girma in their club environment at the San Diego Wave, providing the foundation for the team’s run to the NWSL Shield in 2023. Girma was arguably the USWNT’s MVP in 2023. She both served as the wedge between opponents and her own goal and was relied upon heavily to spring possession forward when the U.S.’s midfield had trouble moving the ball.

The upcoming games give Dahlkemper and Girma a chance to test out their on-field chemistry at the international level, providing equal levels of experience and complementary skill sets. Dahlkemper used to be known for the same diagonal balls forward that have become Girma’s calling card for the U.S. With the role of Girma’s center-back partner firmly up for grabs after the retirement of Julie Ertz, Dahlkemper has a chance to make a big impression in her return. For a team looking for consistent starters following Andonovski’s frequent experimentation in defense, her comeback might be happening at exactly the right time.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

The problem with picking a starting goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s national team is this: There might not be a deeper or more talented position pool from which to choose.

Alyssa Naeher has held the starting spot since before the 2019 World Cup. But the 35-year-old was left off the national team roster for the last camp of 2023 in favor of giving other goalkeepers some looks. That’s not unusual and is in fact a good sign for the team, which will have the opportunity to evaluate its options as the coaching staff plans for the 2024 Olympics.

Still, Naeher’s absence does beg the question: Who is the future at goalkeeper? Just Women’s Sports is taking a look at who could be next in line.

One note: Left off this list is Aubrey Kingsbury. While the Washington Spirit starter has proved herself as a viable USWNT backup, the 32-year-old is only three years younger than Naeher. If the national team is looking for its next long-term starter, it is a little more difficult to make the argument for Kingsbury over the names on this list.

Casey Murphy

Murphy, 27, already is an experienced USWNT backup who now has one World Cup under her belt. She also has experience starting for the USWNT, having made 16 total appearances in goal, 12 of which were shutouts. She has not conceded a goal in her three starts so far in 2023.

On top of being a reliable option for the USWNT, Murphy also is the starting goalkeeper for the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage. She was among the league’s best goalkeepers in 2023, conceding just 20 goals in 20 starts and holding a 74.2 save percentage, good for seventh in the league. Her nine clean sheets in 2023 ranked first in the NWSL, her second time topping the league in clean sheets in three years.

Murphy also has some international experience, having played for Montpellier in France’s Division 1 Féminine. Murphy’s international experience, combined with her standout performance in club play, make her a compelling candidate for taking over the starting spot when Naeher eventually steps away.

(Charlotte Tattersall/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Phallon Tullis-Joyce

If there is one player who could fit under the new-look USWNT squad led by new coach Emma Hayes, it’s Phallon Tullis-Joyce.

The 27-year-old departed OL Reign in 2023 for Manchester United, which is also home to World Cup Golden Glove winner Mary Earps. Earps is rumored to be departing Manchester United at the end of the Women’s Super League season, which could set up Tullis-Joyce to step into the starting spot for one of England’s best clubs.

Tullis-Joyce already is a top-notch keeper, having finished her time with OL Reign with 47 appearances, 135 saves and 15 clean sheets. She holds the club record for most clean sheets in regular season play with 13, and she ranks third on the club’s all-time regular-season saves list (110). In 2022, she ranked first in the NWSL in clean sheets (9), save percentage (81.3) and goals against per 90 (0.86). She also ranked fourth in saves and third in clean sheet percentage.

While she struggled to start the 2023 NW season relative to her 2022 performance, the move to Manchester United could prove beneficial for Tullis-Joyce and for the USWNT. Under Hayes, it’s likely that international club experience will be valued highly. After all, much has been made about the changes in the international game and how the USWNT’s players need to change with it.

A goalkeeper who has experience playing against some of the world’s best players in Europe (and keep in mind Tullis-Joyce also played professionally in France) could prove vital, especially as the 27-year-old takes this season to play under one of the best goalkeepers in the game in Earps.

(Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Jane Campbell

The 2023 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, Campbell has been playing her way back into consideration for the USWNT. And she was given that chance this month, as she was named to the national team roster for the December friendlies against China.

Campbell’s NWSL season was an outstanding one for the Houston Dash, with the keeper making a league-leading 93 saves and recording eight shutouts all while boasting an astounding 0.83 goals against average in 22 games played. She also conceded the fewest goals (18), even though she ranked third in the league in shots on target faced (108).

With Campbell in net, the Dash came within one goal of the NWSL record for fewest goals conceded in a season. (The record of 17 was set by the North Carolina Courage in 2017 and matched by the Portland Thorns in 2021.)

Campbell has spent time in USWNT camp before, having bounced in and out of senior national team camp since 2013 and making her international debut in 2017. She also spent extensive time in U.S. Soccer’s youth development system. The 28-year-old has made seven international appearances, and she was on the USWNT roster for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, where the team won bronze.

As a player in which the USWNT already has invested time, if Campbell continues the trend she started in 2023, she could find her way not just back onto the national team but into the starting spot.

(Kiyoshi Mio/USA TODAY Sports)

Claudia Dickey

At just 23 years old, Claudia Dickey very well may be the goalkeeper of the future for the USWNT. A former UNC Tar Heel who was the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NWSL draft, Dickey took over the OL Reign starting spot from Phallon Tullis-Joyce during the 2023 Challenge Cup. She made three starts in the Challenge Cup, recording 12 saves and not allowing a single goal.

She then started in the remaining six games of the season as Tullis-Joyce departed for Manchester United. In the playoffs, she helped lead the team to an appearance in the NWSL championship final, setting the club record for shutouts in the NWSL playoffs with two. She also became just the fifth NWSL goalkeeper to earn a shutout in her postseason debut.

“My thing with her is just how much she’s improved since taking over the Reign starting job midseason, and she’s particularly fearless coming off her line,” Just Women’s Sports writer Claire Watkins says. “So I like her intangibles. She’s young, so the rest can be coached.”

While Dickey is inexperienced, she’s shown bright spots with a club that boasted big USWNT names such as Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett. While still young, she will continue to develop under head coach Laura Harvey after signing a contract extension through 2025. By the time that the 2027 World Cup rolls around, she could at the very least warrant a look for the backup position – if not the starting spot.

Of the 27 players called into the October training camp for the U.S. women’s national team, 17 are set to compete in the NWSL playoffs.

Every one of the six teams competing in the postseason will send players to the USWNT for its friendlies against Colombia on Oct. 26 and 29. The Portland Thorns lead the way, with five players heading to the national team — not counting captain Christine Sinclair, who will play for Canada as her career winds down.

The NWSL playoffs kick off at 10 p.m. ET Friday, as the OL Reign host Angel City FC in the first round. After the quarterfinal round, the postseason will take a one-week break to allow players to join their national teams for the October international window.

Among the playoff teams, Angel City FC features the least number of international players, per team announcements. Just three are set to join their national teams in October – and two (Alyssa Thompson and M.A. Vignola) will remain here in the United States.

2023 NWSL playoffs: USWNT players

(1) Portland Thorns

  • Sam Coffey
  • Crystal Dunn
  • Olivia Moultrie
  • Becky Sauerbrunn
  • Sophia Smith

(2) San Diego Wave

  • Alex Morgan
  • Jaedyn Shaw
  • Naomi Girma

(3) North Carolina Courage

  • Casey Murphy, USWNT
  • Emily Fox, USWNT

(4) OL Reign

  • Alana Cook, USWNT
  • Sofia Huerta, USWNT
  • Emily Sonnett, USWNT

(5) Angel City FC

  • Alyssa Thompson, USWNT
  • M.A. Vignola, USWNT

(6) Gotham FC

  • Lynn Williams, USWNT
  • Midge Purce, USWNT

2023 NWSL playoffs: International players

(1) Portland Thorns

  • Christine Sinclair, Canada

(2) San Diego Wave

  • Kyra Carusa, Ireland
  • Sofia Jakobsson, Sweden
  • Kailen Sheridan, Canada

(3) North Carolina Courage

  • Sydney Collins, Canada
  • Mille Gejl, Denmark
  • Rikke Marie Madsen, Denmark
  • Denise O’Sullivan, Ireland

(4) OL Reign

  • Angelina, Brazil
  • Quinn, Canada
  • Jordyn Huitema, Canada
  • Jess Fishlock, Wales

(5) Angel City FC

  • Claire Emslie, Scotland

(6) Gotham FC

  • Sinead Farrelly, Ireland
  • Esther González, Spain
  • Ify Onumonu, Nigeria

The North Carolina Courage successfully defended their 2022 Challenge Cup title Saturday, taking home the 2023 crown with a 2-0 win over Racing Louisville. With the victory, the club has seven NWSL titles in seven years – two Challenge Cups, three Shields, and two league championships.

After knocking on the door throughout the Challenge Cup, Kerolin got the Courage on the board early and they never looked back. Manaka Matuskubo got the team’s second in the 54th minute, making the 19-year-old the youngest player to score in any NWSL title game and earning her MVP honors.

“It’s a world-class finish,” Courage coach Sean Nahas said of Matuskubo’s strike. “I don’t think anyone else would have thought about hitting that first time out of the air. I think it shows the level of IQ she has. … I’m thrilled for her.

“She was shocked that she won the MVP. But for a 19-year-old to come into this environment and have an impact I think says a lot about her.”

In addition to Matuskubo, who deserves to be among the Best XI for the Challenge Cup semifinals and championship match? Just Women’s Sports makes our picks from the North Carolina Courage, Racing Louisville, OL Reign and Kansas City Current.

2023 NWSL Challenge Cup: Best XI

GK – Casey Murphy (North Carolina)

While the goal scorers were key for the Courage, the USWNT goalkeeper recorded two clean sheets in the semifinals and the final, saving three shots total, to help ensure consecutive Challenge Cup titles for her team.

D – Ryan Williams (North Carolina)

Williams played a key role on the Courage back line, which allowed just three shots on target throughout the Challenge Cup semifinal and final. In the championship match, she won three of her tackles and recorded two interceptions.

D – Malia Berkely (North Carolina)

Against Kansas City in Wednesday’s 1-0 semifinal win, Berkely recorded three tackles and one interception, while recording a game-high 97.7% completion rate on her passes, finishing on 86 of 88 attempts. Against Louisville, she also recorded a shot on target.

D – Phoebe McClernon (OL Reign)

McClernon was all over the field defensively for OL Reign in their semifinal loss to Racing Louisville, recording a game-high six tackles and three interceptions. She also held a 72.4% completion rate on 58 attempted passes, and her 42 completions were second only to teammate Sofia Huerta.

M – Brianna Pinto (North Carolina)

Pinto scored the game-winner in North Carolina’s semifinal matchup against Kansas City in stoppage time to send the team to the Challenge Cup final. While she had just 11 touches, she made the most of them, completing five of six total passes.

M – Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina)

The foundation of North Carolina’s defensive midfield, O’Sullivan winning a game-high seven tackles in the championship match. Against Kansas City in the semifinal, she had an astounding 90.8% completion rate on her passes, and she had two tackles and one block while also recording a shot.

M – Savannah DeMelo (Louisville)

Before leaving for the World Cup with the USWNT, DeMelo was one of Louisville’s best Challenge Cup players. And she picked up where she left off upon her return. Against OL Reign, she had three shots – including one on target – while also recording two tackles and two blocks. Her 0.3 xG was the best for Louisville in that game.

M – Mana Matsukubo (North Carolina)

North Carolina’s 19-year-old midfielder made history in the NWSL Challenge Cup final, earning her a spot on the tournament’s Best XI. She had two shots – both of which were on target – in the final, converting on the one.

F – Kerolin (North Carolina)

The Brazilian star placed among the league’s top shot-takers throughout the Challenge Cup but had not converted until Saturday, when she scored the game-winner against Louisville. She finished the match with five shots, three of them on target. She also played well in the semifinal, recording two shots, one tackle and a team-high four blocks.

F – Michelle Cooper (Kansas City)

The 20-year-old rookie out of Duke had a great semifinal game for the Current, recording a team-high two shots and three tackles. Her 0.6 xG led the Current, and she also had a 72.2% completion rate on her passes.

F – Kirsten Davis (Louisville)

Davis helped Racing Louisville to their first-ever NWSL championship game with a goal against OL Reign in the semifinal. She also had a tackle and a block in that game while completing 78.6% of her passes.

In the aftermath of the U.S. women’s national team’s exit from the 2023 World Cup, players are sharing their reflections on their journeys.

And the same message comes through, over and over again, though captain Lindsey Horan spelled it out in the simplest terms: “We will grow. We will be back.”

From veterans Megan Rapinoe to Alex Morgan to newcomers Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman to every player in between, this is what the stars of the USWNT have to say in the aftermath of their World Cup elimination.

Megan Rapinoe

The 38-year-old forward leaves her fourth and final World Cup without a title, but she still expressed immense pride in her team in her first Instagram captain after the USWNT’s loss to Sweden in the Round of 16.

“This team is in special hands as I walk away, just like it always was, and always will be,” she wrote. “Because that is what this team is all about. We lay it all out on the line every single time.”

Alex Morgan

“This wound will not only heal but will serve as a defining moment in the history of USWNT — one we will grow and be stronger for,” the 34-year-old striker wrote.

While Morgan did not commit to her future with the national team in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup loss, she later told ESPN that she plans to stick around — at least for the near future.

Sophia Smith

A heartbroken Sophia Smith missed a would-be winning penalty kick in the fifth round of the shootout loss to Sweden.

“It wouldn’t be life without moments like this, and I know without a doubt we will be back and hungrier than ever,” the 23-year-old forward wrote.

Trinity Rodman

While the 21-year-old forward said she had “no words” to describe her World Cup experience, she did give her thanks “to everyone who helped me grow as a person, soccer player, and teammate during this journey of the unknown.”

Lynn Williams

The 30-year-old forward took the time to praise her team — and also to push back against bad-faith critics who questioned their dedication to their sport and their country.

“For our dedication and reasoning for wearing the crest to be questioned is unfathomable,” she wrote.

Alyssa Thompson

The 18-year-old forward did not play many minutes in her first World Cup, but the experience will stick with her forever.

“While the result was not what we had wanted, I learned so much about myself, this game, and life,” she wrote.

Lindsey Horan

Horan, along with Morgan, took on the mantle of the USWNT captaincy during the tournament. And despite the pressure and the disappointment of the 2023 tournament, the 29-year-old midfielder still expressed her unwavering love for the game.

“This is why we play right? To live in the biggest pressure moments. To play on the greatest stage. Playing for something you’ve dreamt of your entire life. Playing to inspire. Playing to bring joy. Playing in front of all of you,” she wrote. “This is why I love this game so much.”

Andi Sullivan

The 27-year-old midfielder shared a poem from Oriah Mountain Dreamer, which celebrates “the adventure of being alive.”

Savannah DeMelo

“It’s hard to put into words all the emotions that have been felt within the past few months, but I’m grateful for them all, the highs and even the lows,” the 25-year-old midfielder wrote.

Crystal Dunn

Although the game can be “so cruel,” the 31-year-old defender said, she remains “so proud of this group” for its fight and its unbreakable bond.

Kelley O’Hara

The 35-year-old defender, who won the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles with the USWNT and also competed in the 2011 tournament, apologized for her role in the shootout loss to Sweden in her first Instagram post after the 2023 tournament. O’Hara missed her kick in the seventh round of the shootout, and then Lina Hurtig buried hers to seal the win for Sweden.

“I was asked to do one job at the final critical moment and I did not execute,” O’Hara wrote. “For that, I am beyond sorry.”

Sofia Huerta

To have the dream of a lifetime end “just like that” hurts, Huerta wrote. But 30-year-old defender plans “to stay focused on the good and to turn the losses into lessons.”

“What no one sees from the outside is how each player had to dig deep,” she wrote. “And while the end result was not what we had hoped for, what happened on the field in our last game was nothing short of inspiring.”

Alyssa Naeher

“I think a piece of my heart is still on that field in Melbourne,” Naeher wrote. The 35-year-old goalkeeper had the closest possible view of Sweden’s game-winning penalty kick, which Naeher batted and then grabbed from the air but not before it crossed the goal line by millimeters.

Aubrey Kingsbury

“Our World Cup ended just as we were getting started,” the 31-year-old backup goalkeeper wrote. The USWNT played its best game of the tournament in the shootout loss to Sweden in the Round of 16.

Casey Murphy

“I’m optimistic we will come back stronger,” the 27-year-old backup goalkeeper wrote. “But also defeated, sorry, and sad it’s over.”

The U.S. women’s national team has named its 23-player roster for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer. From 37-year-old Megan Rapinoe — a two-time World Cup champion with the USWNT — to 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson, the players vary in age and international soccer experience.

They also hail from different regions of the country. A team-leading eight players are natives of California, while two players each come from New Jersey, Virginia, Ohio, Georgia and Colorado.

Find out which state every U.S. player calls home with our interactive map below.

The U.S. women’s national team faces “one of the hardest” groups at the 2023 World Cup, head coach Vlatko Andonovski said Tuesday.

Andonovski and USWNT players addressed reporters Tuesday in California ahead of the training camp for the upcoming tournament, which kicks off on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand. And they have their work cut out for them, at least in the view of the head coach.

The USWNT faces a tough test in Group E, which includes 2019 runner-up Netherlands, Portugal and Vietnam, “three different types of teams” with varied philosophies and styles, Andonovski said. Yet the two-time defending World Cup champions enter with sky-high expectations.

“Would I be happy with anything short of a third straight win? No! Absolutely not,” he said. “Our goal is to win the World Cup, there’s no question about it.”

Andonovski also addressed a number of questions, from which player will serve as captain to the possibility of Crystal Dunn in the midfield. Just Women’s Sports has a roundup of the news and notes as training begins.

Who is the next USWNT captain?

Longtime captain Becky Sauerbrunn is missing the World Cup due to a lingering foot injury, which leaves a big hole for the team to fill.

Yet while the next captain has been selected, Andonovski did not reveal the choice Tuesday. While he had intended to inform players of the selection upon their arrival in California, flight delays postponed the announcement.

One likely choice is Lindsey Horan, who has served as the co-captain to Sauerbrunn in recent years, often taking on the captain’s armband in Sauerbrunn’s absence.

“She gets to lead this team out at a World Cup and to really appreciate what that means, in the course of your career,” Sauerbrunn said of Horan on a recent episode of Snacks. “Like, that’s such a crazy, cool accomplishment.”

Will the USWNT use one starting goalkeeper or a rotation?

Andonovski plans to choose a No. 1 goalkeeper to make most of the starts at the World Cup, though a second goalkeeper might take the reins for one group-stage game, he said Tuesday.

“We’re going to have to keep the rhythm of our No. 1,” he said. But one game for the No. 2 keeper in the group stage could help the team in case of injury. At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, starter Alyssa Naeher went down with a knee injury in the semifinals, so backup AD Franch saw her first minutes of the tournament in the semifinals and the bronze-medal match.

Naeher is the presumptive No. 1 as training camp begins, with Casey Murphy and Aubrey Kingsbury also on the roster.

Will Crystal Dunn play in the midfield?

Dunn shines at midfield for the Portland Thorns, but the 30-year-old is a starting defender for the national team. And while she wasn’t holding out hope for a midfield appearance at the World Cup, as she told “Diaspora United” in May, she may yet get her shot, Andonovski said Tuesday.

The team does not “want to exclude the possibility of her playing in the midfield if that’s what the team needs,” he told reporters.

“Crystal is one of the best players overall in the world, and the fact that she can play midfielder on Sunday and left back on Wednesday, that just speaks to the quality player she is,” he said.

When Andonovski announced the roster last week, he also floated the possibility of playing midfielder Julie Ertz at center-back. Ertz is a midfield mainstay for the USWNT but also has played center-back on the international stage.

How much should USWNT players pack for the World Cup?

Alyssa Thompson called Horan to ask her advice on what to pack. Yet despite playing in the 2019 World Cup in France, Horan did not know what to tell her 18-year-old teammate.

“She wanted to know essentials for packing for the World Cup and I had no idea what to tell her,” Horan said.

Megan Rapinoe, who will be playing in her fourth World Cup for the USWNT, offered a solution: “Bring it all!”

Alex Morgan is the lone U.S. women’s national team player in the top 10 of EA Sports’ 2023 Women’s World Cup player ratings.

EA Sports will release a World Cup update for its popular FIFA 23 game at the end of June in preparation for the tournament, which kicks off on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand. Australia’s Sam Kerr, Spain’s Alexia Putellas and Norway’s Caroline Graham Hansen take the top three spots ahead of Morgan.

While no other USWNT star ranks in the top 10, the reigning World Cup champions count 12 players in the top 100 — though only 10 of those players are included on the World Cup roster. USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn and star forward Mallory Swanson both will miss the tournament with injuries.

Among the players who will make the trip Down Under, 22-year-old forward Sophia Smith comes behind Morgan at No. 14 overall, followed by midfielders Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan. Then comes Megan Rapinoe, Alyssa Naeher, Aubrey Kingsbury, Trinity Rodman, Casey Murphy and Kelley O’Hara.

Germany features the most players in the top 100 with 17 overall, though the team’s highest ranked player Alexandra Popp sits at No. 16 overall. England has 14 players in the top 100, while France has 13.

Still, the USWNT came out on top in the FIFA 23 simulation of the World Cup tournament, which saw the United States best Germany 4-2 in the championship match to claim the virtual three-peat.

FIFA 23 World Cup player ratings

Top 10 overall:

  1. Sam Kerr, Australia – 91
  2. Alexia Putellas, Spain – 91
  3. Caroline Graham Hansen, Norway – 90
  4. Alex Morgan, United States – 90
  5. Ada Hegerberg, Norway – 90
  6. Wendie Renard, France – 90
  7. Lucy Bronze, England – 90
  8. *Marie-Antoinette Katoto – 89
  9. Irene Paredes, Spain – 88
  10. Guro Reiten, Norway – 88

USWNT players in top 100:

  • 4. Alex Morgan, forward – 90
  • 14. Sophia Smith, forward – 87
  • 23. Rose Lavelle, midfielder – 87
  • 24. *Mallory Swanson, forward – 87
  • 26. Lindsey Horan, midfielder – 86
  • 33. *Becky Sauerbrunn, defender – 86
  • 35. Megan Rapinoe, forward – 86
  • 52. Alyssa Naeher, goalkeeper – 84
  • 58. Aubrey Kingsbury, goalkeeper – 84
  • 68. Trinity Rodman, forward – 83
  • 86. Casey Murphy, goalkeeper – 83
  • 92. Kelley O’Hara, defender – 83

U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski on Wednesday named his 23-player roster for the 2023 World Cup beginning next month in Australia and New Zealand.

The team features three players competing in their fourth World Cups (Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Kelley O’Hara) and 14 World Cup debutantes. The players will be released from their club teams for World Cup duty on June 26 and will play a send-off match against Wales on July 9 before traveling to New Zealand for their group-stage opener against Vietnam on July 21.

Get to know the 23 players representing the USWNT in their World Cup title defense.

It’s certainly no secret that this U.S. women’s national team World Cup roster looks much different from the last.

With many veterans having retired or out due to injury, the USWNT is bringing a number of newcomers down under. In total 14 of the 23 players on the provisional roster have never played in a World Cup.

Among them are players who have solidified their spots since 2019, like Sophia Smith and Naomi Girma, who are still young but bring a dominating presence to the squad. Others, like Alyssa Thompson, are just a few caps in and still attempting to find their way.

Alana Cook, 26, defender

Defender Alana Cook has factored heavily for the USWNT the last couple matches, including getting her first goal against Ireland in April. With club experience both internationally and domestically, Cook is no stranger to the world’s biggest stages from a club standpoint. Now, she’ll do it for the USWNT.

Also eligible to play for England, Cook’s first senior international call-up actually came for the Lionesses, before being called up to the USWNT in October 2019. Since joining OL Reign in 2021, Cook helped the squad to the NWSL Shield in 2022 and was named to the NWSL’s Best XI in 2021 and 2022.

Savannah DeMelo, 25, midfielder

Savannah DeMelo’s stellar start to the NWSL season has been rewarded with a provisional World Cup roster spot. Despite call-ups to the USWNT in September and October of 2022, DeMelo hasn’t made an international appearance, meaning that her debut will likely either come at the World Cup or in the send-off game against Wales. Her lack of experience could factor in, or it could not – and if it doesn’t, look out: DeMelo scored in four of five appearances to start the season and forced an own goal against Chicago.

Emily Fox, 24, defender

After earning her first call-up to the USWNT in 2018, Emily Fox finally earned significant time in camp in 2022, making 14 appearances and notching one assist. She’s had six appearances to start the year, and even scored her first NWSL goal against Ireland in April.

Fox is one that can go anywhere on the back line, be it right or left. USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn has called the defender “versatile” before, which could prove helpful down under if Andonovski decides he wants to play around with his lineup. With Sauerbrunn out, it’s even more likely that Fox could end up a starter in the first slate of games as Crystal Dunn continues to regain fitness and stamina after returning from childbirth.

Naomi Girma, 23, defender

Naomi Girma may have once been the future of the USWNT’s defense, but with the absence of Becky Sauerbrunn that future is now here. Girma might just be two years into her professional career, and 15 appearances into her international career, but you wouldn’t know it.

In her rookie NWSL season, Girma was named not only Rookie of the Year, but Defender of the Year as well. She’ll take on a lot of responsibility in her first World Cup, but there might not be another player better suited for it.

Sofia Huerta, 30, defender

While Huerta has become a mainstay over the last few years, the 2023 World Cup will be her first major tournament with the squad. While she missed out on the 2021 Olympics, she helped the team to the 2022 Concacaf Women’s Championship title, and she’ll look to replicate that success in Australia and New Zealand.

Aubrey Kingsbury, 31, goalkeeper

After receiving her first national team call-up in 2019, goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury has now been named to the World Cup roster. Slotting in at the third-string goalkeeper slot, Kingsbury has just one international appearance, but it was a clean sheet in a 9-0 win over Uzbekistan in April 2022. She’s also had a solid start to the NWSL season, and statistically has always been one of the NWSL’s best keepers.

Kristie Mewis, 32, midfielder

Kristie Mewis has been in the USWNT ranks for a long time, having earned 15 caps between 2013 and 2014 before falling off the radar. Suffering two serious knee injuries during that time, Mewis fought her way back and was rewarded. Under Vlatko Anodnovski, the midfielder has seen a resurgence in her national team career. Mewis is now one of the more experienced players that is going to New Zealand, despite never having played in a World Cup, with 51 international appearances under her belt.

Casey Murphy, 27, goalkeeper

Murphy made her first appearance for the senior national team on a trip to Australia in 2021. She recorded a shutout in that match against the Matildas, and she’ll look for similar success on her return trip.

Trinity Rodman, 21, forward

After bursting onto the NWSL scene in 2021, Trinity Rodman received her first call-up in 2022, scoring in just her third national team appearance. She made 10 appearances in 2022, scoring two goals.

A Ballon d’Or nominee in 2022, Rodman also became the highest paid player in NWSL history in February 2022. While she’s intermittently started since her first call-up, the injury to Mallory Swanson provides Rodman with the ability to solidify herself as a starter. Nobody can replace Swanson, but Rodman has the ability to balance out the USWNT starting attack, both with her scoring and as one of the team’s best passers.

Ashley Sanchez, 24, midfielder

Ashley Sanchez is no stranger to the national team program, having spent a lot of time on the youth national teams. In 2016, she featured at the U-20 Women’s World Cup and the U-17 WWC, becoming the first player in U.S. history to play in multiple World Cups in the same year. She also received her first national team call-up that year (although her first cap came in 2021), meaning that she’s been in the system a long time. Sanchez is a player that’s good at creating chances and taking them, and has had a good start to the NWSL season.

Sophia Smith, 22, forward

The 2022 NWSL Player of the Year also featured as one of the best players internationally and was named U.S. Soccer Player of the Year. But she’ll be making her first World Cup appearance this summer. And while some have tabbed her as “the future” of the USWNT, Smith has made it known that she’s intent on being that player right now.

Through 29 international appearances, Smith has 12 goals, with her most recent coming against Germany last November. She’s made just two appearances to start 2023, having dealt with some injury issues that kept her sidelined earlier in the year. But she’s back healthy, and started the NWSL season with seven goals and five assists in seven appearances, which once again places her as one of the best players in the league.

Andi Sullivan, 27, midfielder

Sullivan helped lead the Washington Spirit to the 2021 NWSL title, and since then she has become a starter in the USWNT midfield while Julie Ertz missed time due to injury and then pregnancy. She could hold onto that starting spot even with Ertz’s return.

Alyssa Thompson, 18, forward

18-year-old Alyssa Thompson’s career has been on a fast path ever since she made her USWNT debut last October. Since then, she’s made three appearances on the USWNT, and was called up in April as a replacement for Mallory Swanson.

Drafted first-overall in the 2023 NWSL Draft, Thompson has made 11 appearances in her rookie pro season for Angel City FC and scored three goals – which is the second-most on the team and includes just 11 minutes into her NWSL regular season debut and just five minutes into her pro debut against Club América. While young, Thompson’s abilities cannot be understated and she brings a boost down under with the USWNT.

Lynn Williams, 30, forward

Although it may seem crazy, this will be Lynn Williams’ first World Cup appearance. The three-time NWSL champion, NWSL Golden Boot and MVP winner has been a regular on the USWNT since 2016, but did not crack the roster in 2019.

But since her return from a hamstring tear last season, Williams has left no doubts about her inclusion on the roster this go around. She might be the best player that the USWNT has to take down under at the forward position, having had a hot start to the NWSL season with Gotham FC in which she’s scored five times and taken sole possession of the second-most goals in NWSL history. What’s even more scary for the opposition? Williams told Snacks back in May that she still feels like she’s getting back to being herself on the pitch.