While the U.S. women’s national team squad that will compete at the 2023 Women’s World Cup includes some household names, it also has a lot of unfamiliar ones. Of the 23 players headed to Australia and New Zealand for the tournament, 14 have never played in a World Cup before. That’s more newbies than the USWNT had at the previous two World Cups (which the U.S. won).
This is your primer on who these players are — both on and off the field. We dug through social media posts, scoured interviews and crunched the numbers on stats to give you a snapshot of all 23 players on the roster. (All stats comprise Opta data via TruMedia and are current as of the day USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski announced his roster, June 21. Many stats come from the National Women’s Soccer League because every player on the USWNT roster, except Lindsey Horan, plays club soccer in the NWSL.)
The USWNT’s World Cup opener is July 21 against Vietnam, so let’s get to know these players.
Alex Morgan, 34, is the third-oldest player on the roster, and despite a crop of newcomers pushing for her spot, she remains a guaranteed starter and the face of the team. Even non-USWNT fans might know Morgan from the many endorsements she has racked up, which recently included modeling Calvin Klein underwear and being a Michelob Ultra spokeswoman. She’s also one of several mothers on the USWNT, and her postgame routine usually involves daughter Charlie visiting her on the field after the final whistle.
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As the target striker up top, Morgan can be counted on to put a team on her back. She has the highest share of a team’s goals in the NWSL from any single player, scoring a whopping 42% of San Diego Wave FC‘s goals over the 2022 and 2023 regular seasons and NWSL Challenge Cups. Morgan also has been just as efficient on the big stage: She averaged 126.9 minutes in between goals in her three previous World Cup appearances (2011, 2015 and 2019), which is the best among all USWNT players with at least five World Cup games.
At 22, Colorado native Sophia Smith is one of the youngest players on the roster, and a photo making the rounds of her at just 7 years old meeting USWNT legend Abby Wambach drives home the generational shift that Smith is leading. She says her favorite hobby is reading, and she played two seasons at Stanford before leaving college early to go pro.
Smith is an aggressive and audacious forward. Among all players in the NWSL with at least 500 minutes, Smith ranks third in successful take-ons per 90 minutes for the 2022 and 2023 NWSL regular seasons and NWSL Challenge Cup tournaments at 3.07. Brazil striker Kerolin ranks No. 1 (3.44), and Irish midfielder Sinead Farrelly is second (3.40). (Take-ons are when a player in possession beats a defender with the ball at her feet.)
Trinity Rodman‘s name has preceded her during her young career. She is the daughter of NBA great Dennis Rodman, although he had very little to do with her upbringing — in fact, she says she got her competitive drive from her mother, Michelle. Yet making the World Cup roster is a culmination of a sensational 2½ NWSL seasons as a professional for Rodman, and she is clearly making her own name. In 2021, she became the youngest player drafted in the NWSL at that time, and she finished that season with Rookie of the Year honors.
Although the 21-year-old Rodman is a capable scorer on her own, where she stands out tends to be in her passing and her ability to set up her teammates. Among all players in the NWSL over the past two years with at least 500 minutes — regular season and Challenge Cup — she ranks fourth per 90 minutes in xA, or expected assists, a measure of how likely it is that a pass will become an assist. (Ahead of her are three Americans: Megan Rapinoe, who is on the U.S. World Cup team; Mallory Swanson, who is injured; and full-back Carson Pickett, who did not make the roster.)
At 38 years old, Megan Rapinoe will be the oldest player on the USWNT roster, and she will accordingly play a reduced role off the bench. Fans will remember “Pinoe” as the pink-haired star of the 2019 World Cup who ultimately prevailed in her feud with then-President Donald Trump — but she has been rocking a blue hue lately, and President Joe Biden awarded her a Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work on addressing racial inequality, among other issues. In other words, don’t expect Rapinoe’s 2023 World Cup to look anything like what transpired four years ago. She has already announced she’ll retire later this year.
Although Rapinoe won’t be a regular starter this summer, she is still plenty capable of making an impact as a substitute, and no player in the NWSL over the past two years (regular season and Challenge Cup) has been as dangerous on set pieces. Her 1.23 chances created on set pieces per 90 minutes is the highest rate in the league among all players with at least 500 minutes.
At just 18 years, 7 months and 15 days when the tournament starts, Alyssa Thompson is the youngest player on the USWNT’s World Cup roster. She’s the second-youngest player to represent the U.S. in a Women’s World Cup, after Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak made the 1995 World Cup at 18 years, 1 month and 1 day. Before going pro with Angel City FC this season, Thompson ran track for her high school and last year she posted the second-fastest 100-meter time in California.
It might be too small of a sample size because Thompson had played only three games for the USWNT by the time she made the World Cup roster, but she’s the only U.S. forward who comes close to Lynn Williams on defensive interventions per 90 minutes in international play. How much Thompson plays at the World Cup remains to be seen, but barring injuries, it probably won’t be very much.
Growing up, Lynn Williams helped out at her parents’ pecan farm, sometimes removing shells and learning to put in unglamorous work. Despite setting her high school’s goal-scoring record in Fresno, California, the U.S. youth national teams didn’t take notice, and the only college to offer her a scholarship was Pepperdine University, a school not known for its soccer pedigree. She flourished there, eventually earning a call to the U-23 national team as a junior, which put her on a path to the USWNT’s World Cup team that is pretty uncommon. Most of Williams’ teammates have been pegged as potential stars from a young age, but Williams fought her way into the spotlight later. She hosts a podcast called “Snacks” with (currently injured) USWNT teammate Samantha Mewis.
Because of a late injury to would-be starting winger Mallory Swanson, it’s unclear whether the 30-year-old Williams will get the nod to start, but she has a shot if Andonovski wants a forward who will work hard and create defensive pressure. She’s a goal scorer who can be counted on to backtrack when out of possession, and no USWNT forward makes defensive interventions as often as she does. Since the start of 2022, Williams has 14.01 defensive interventions per 90 minutes in international play, which is the highest among all USWNT forwards. (Defensive interventions include everything from blocks and tackles to aerial duels won and recoveries.) Next closest are Alyssa Thompson (13.42) and Trinity Rodman (10.66).
Lindsey Horan, 29, is the only player on the roster not competing in the NWSL right now, as she plies her trade in France for Lyon. She started her career in France, too, joining Paris Saint-Germain at age 18, becoming the first American woman to go pro straight out of high school — a path some of her USWNT teammates have since followed. She came to the U.S. and played in the NWSL to secure her spot on the U.S. team before the 2019 World Cup, but now that she has proved herself indispensable, she’s back in Europe.
At 5-foot-9, she’s one of the taller players on this U.S. roster, and she takes advantage of it. Among all USWNT players with at least 270 international minutes since the start of 2022 (the equivalent of three games), Horan is first in aerial duels won at 3.99 per 90 minutes.
A native of Cincinnati, Rose Lavelle is not shy about admitting her hometown is her favorite place on Earth, and if the NWSL ever adds a team in Cincinnati, she’ll find a way to join it. She loves dogs, none more than her bulldog named Wilma Jean Wrinkles. She’s also a ferocious reader, with the Harry Potter series ranking among her favorites. The 28-year-old’s off-the-field persona is all about fun, and she plays with the same kind of panache.
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Rose Lavelle details how new players change the USWNT dynamic for the World Cup.
Although Lavelle has been hampered by injuries as of late, her creativity as a classic No. 10 playmaker will be difficult to replace if she doesn’t play a starting role in this World Cup. Since the start of 2022 in international play, Lavelle has led the USWNT per 90 minutes in through-balls, the defense-splitting passes that can lead to quality scoring opportunities. Her “big chances” created (that is, chances extremely likely to result in a goal) rank fourth per 90 among all USWNT players with at least four games. Lavelle also has 29 carries after succeeding in a one-on-one opportunity, second most for the U.S. in that span, behind Sophia Smith.
After the Olympics ended in August 2021, Ertz stepped away from soccer; she didn’t appear again for the USWNT or play a club game until April, a 610-day gap. She didn’t even sign with a club for the 2022 season and eventually announced she was having a child, welcoming son Madden in August 2022 with her husband, Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz. But unlike players like Alex Morgan, who trained while pregnant and returned soon after giving birth, club-less Ertz was out of the USWNT picture entirely. That is, until the last window before Andonovski would pick his 2023 World Cup roster: She made a surprise return and instantly became a lock for the squad.
Ertz is a physical defensive midfielder, flying into tackles and disrupting opposing attacks. The sample sizes for Ertz, 31, are small anywhere you look — she has barely played for the USWNT or in the NWSL since 2021. And yet it’s hard not to notice that she leads the USWNT in blocked shots per 90 minutes (1.32). Can that be extrapolated beyond the mere 68 international minutes she played at the time she made the roster? We’ll see.
As the only uncapped player to make this World Cup roster — a rare feat — Savannah DeMelo hasn’t had much time to ease her way into the USWNT. Without any international performances, the 25-year-old’s squad selection was based entirely on her NWSL performances. The Southern California native was the fourth overall pick in the 2022 NWSL college draft, and she has been tearing it up since.
DeMelo is so good that opposing teams tend to want to take her out of the game. Her 3.3 fouls suffered per 90 minutes is the second most among all NWSL players over the past two years (regular season and Challenge Cup) with a minimum of 500 minutes, and the highest among all USWNT players in the league. In the attacking half, she ranks first in fouls suffered, averaging 1.82 per game.
Nicknamed Sunny, Andi Sullivan was born in Hawaii as her father served in the Coast Guard, but she grew up in Northern Virginia outside of Washington. At Stanford University, she majored in symbolic systems, which involves the study of how the human mind works and processes information.
Sullivan, 27, has been praised as a mature defensive midfielder beyond her years, and while she doesn’t tend to lead the NWSL or the USWNT in any notable stats, she offers steady leadership on the field. Her 8.82 recoveries per 90 minutes since 2022 (regular season and Challenge Cup, players with at least 500 minutes) ranks 19th in the NWSL. (Recoveries are when a player wins back possession for her team.)
While it seems unlikely Ashley Sanchez will be a starter in her first World Cup ahead of the likes of a healthy Rose Lavelle, she has the flair and go-for-it attitude that can make her a valuable impact player. She is versatile, able to play as a No. 10 or even a false No. 9, or float wide and cause problems. Off the field, the 24-year-old has talked about her love of baking, and she has a French bulldog named Nala.
Her 2.12 successful take-ons per 90 minutes since 2022 ranks 13th among NWSL players with at least 500 minutes. (Just ahead of her is Alyssa Thompson at No. 12, and Brazil‘s Marta at No. 11 — good company to have.) Sanchez is also No. 4 in successful through-balls per 90 in the league among eligible players, right behind U.S. teammate Lavelle.
At 32, Kristie Mewis has made her first World Cup squad after spending much of her career on the outside of the senior national team. She admits now that she had given up on ever breaking through to the USWNT and accepted being, in her words, “average” — that is, until she admitted to herself that she wanted to make the team and pushed herself. She is dating Australian forward Samantha Kerr — widely considered one of the best players at the Women’s World Cup — and she is the older sister of midfielder Samantha Mewis, who won the World Cup with the USWNT in 2019 but is now injured.
Mewis is one of the better players in the NWSL in creating chances on set pieces. Since the start of 2022, Mewis ranks 17th in the NWSL (among players with at least 500 minutes) in creating chances on set pieces, with 0.65 per 90 minutes.
Alana Cook, who was born outside Boston and grew up in New Jersey, has been part of the U.S. national team system since the under-17 level, but it was after she graduated from Stanford and joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 that she found her way to the senior U.S. team. Through her dad, she was eligible to represent England and in 2019 accepted an invitation from then-coach Phil Neville to join the Lionesses as a training player. A month later, she made her debut for the USWNT and hasn’t looked back.
Cook, 26, ranks second in the NWSL this season in passes intercepted with 31. Among the 144 NWSL players with at least 50 duels this season, Cook’s 68.6% success rate ranks fourth. (Duels are 50-50 challenges between two opposing players with the winner getting the ball.)
A first-generation American, Naomi Girma‘s parents came to the U.S. from Ethiopia, and she got her start playing soccer at a youth club in the San Francisco Bay Area that her father started for fellow Ethiopian families. It was less about soccer than community, but it laid the foundation for Girma, who in her rookie pro season last year was named the NWSL‘s Defender of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Like teammates Sullivan and Cook, Girma majored in symbolic systems at Stanford, and she is working on her master’s degree in management science and engineering.
Girma, 23, is still young when it comes to center backs, but her defensive positioning is comparable to that of veterans. Among all USWNT players in international play since the start of 2022, Girma ranks second in shots blocked per 90 minutes with 0.98. Ahead of her is Julie Ertz (1.32), but Ertz had played only 68 minutes before the roster was announced, giving her a pretty skewed number. Ranked third is Tierna Davidson (0.67), who missed out on the roster, followed by Becky Sauerbrunn (0.53), who is injured.
Emily Sonnett is arguably the best player on the USWNT (along with Rose Lavelle) when it comes to creating memes and trying new viral dances. Some call her the “class clown” of the team, and she takes it as a challenge to see how many teammates she can bring into her self-described goofiness.
As a player who can slot in as a center back, fullback or even defensive midfielder, she’s a bit of a “jack of all trades, master of none.” That’s not a slight: Being a utility player who can fill various roles is incredibly useful on a World Cup roster. The 29-year-old plays physically, but not recklessly — her 23 fouls committed are the fourth most in the NWSL this season, but she has received only two yellow cards.
Emily Fox is a versatile defender, playing starting roles as both a left back and a right back for the USWNT. Although she is left-foot dominant, there’s a good chance she will play on the right side to accommodate Crystal Dunn starting on the left. Called “Foxy” by teammates, the 25-year-old Ashburn, Virginia, native loves the beach and majored in global environment and health at UNC.
Over her past two seasons in the NWSL (regular season and Challenge Cup), Fox has averaged 9.9 recoveries per 90 minutes, ranking second among players with at least 500 minutes. Ahead of her is Canada‘s Sophie Schmidt with 10.61 and behind her is another Canadian, Quinn, with 9.82. (Recoveries are when a player wins back possession for her team.)
The player many of her teammates declare the best dancer on the USWNT, Crystal Dunn lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Pierre, and their son, Marcel, who was born last year. Dunn also has three chickens named Rocky, Toulouse and Quinn, who live in a coop in her backyard. She helped launched the Black Women’s Player Collective, which aims to support Black players in the NWSL and beyond, and has partnered on efforts to help underserved soccer communities.
Crystal Dunn anchors inexperienced but talented defenders for USWNT
Kay Murray previews the goalies and defenders for the U.S. women’s national team entering the 2023 World Cup, including Crystal Dunn, Alyssa Naeher and Naomi Girma.
Though you should expect to see Dunn as a fullback at the World Cup, she’s an attacking midfielder for her club, which makes it hard to compare her performances in the NWSL with her international play. But Dunn’s seven combined goals and assists this season are the most by any NWSL player to have also intercepted 15 passes and made 15 successful tackles. Among the 17 players with 15 tackles and 15 interceptions, Dunn’s five goals scored are nearly as many as the rest of those players put together (six).
While Kelley O’Hara is not the only attacker forced to play as a defender for the USWNT, among this group she was the first to do it. She broke into the national team in 2010 as a forward, was converted into a left back for the 2012 Olympics and was in the midfield at the 2015 World Cup. She was a right back at the 2019 World Cup, but who knows what 2023 will bring? In 2019, she launched a clothing brand with teammates and friends Alex Morgan and Allie Long called Beat Everybody, which features slogans like “USA vs. everybody” or — after the USWNT won the World Cup — “USA beat everybody.”
The 34-year-old has struggled with injury this season, and her stats are generally middle-of-the-pack, but she does lead her club team, NJ/NY Gotham FC, in shots blocked this season with six.
A Boise, Idaho, native, Sofia Huerta was eligible to represent Mexico through her father, and indeed that’s where her international career took off. In five caps for Mexico’s senior team, she scored a pair of goals, but Huerta longed to play for the U.S. and in 2014 declared that she would no longer accept Mexico call-ups. It took until 2017 for the USWNT to come knocking, but it was for only a brief spell — what followed was three more years without camp invites until she finally gained a foothold in the squad in 2022.
Huerta is an attacking fullback, regarded more for her ability going forward than her straight defending chops. The 30-year-old’s 31 crosses completed rank first in the NWSL this season, regardless of position. She also created five “big chances” (those that should be expected to result in a goal), which is tied for the most by any NWSL defender this season.
Alyssa Naeher has a businesslike and reserved presence in net, and the 35-year-old says her daily routine starts with the Wall Street Journal crossword puzzle and her morning coffee. She played basketball growing up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and admits going pro in that sport was her dream until her soccer career started to take off.
Naeher’s 3.75 saves per 90 minutes rank third in the NWSL this season, and she leads in smothers (dives to control the ball at an attacker’s feet). That is partly because Naeher faced more shots than any other goalkeeper as the Chicago Red Stars‘ defense has struggled, but it’s also due to her share of standout plays.
Casey Murphy made her USWNT debut in November 2021 and quickly established herself as a regular at the team’s camps. She went to Rutgers, where she studied communication, and skipped her senior year to go pro at Montpellier HSC in France. Murphy, 27, and her fiancé, Chris Mirabelli, have a golden retriever named Nash.
Murphy has been steady in net for her club, the North Carolina Courage: Over the past two NWSL seasons, she has committed only one error that led to a shot or goal.
One of the roster’s surprise inclusions, Aubrey Kingsbury has just one cap for the USWNT, which came in 2022. The 31-year-old was named the NWSL’s Goalkeeper of the Year in 2021 and she is a captain for her club, the Washington Spirit. She has been working on her MBA from Shenandoah University through the Spirit, which has a partnership with the school to allow players to take free classes. Some fans might remember her as Aubrey Bledsoe, but she changed her last name at the start of 2022 after getting married to her husband, Matt.
Over the past two seasons, Kingsbury ranks second in the NWSL in goals prevented. (The only goalkeeper with more is Racing Louisville’s Katie Lund.)