What Could the USWNT Look Like in Four Years?
The ever  evolving landscape of international soccer means changes are coming to the USWNT. (photo via slate.com)

The landscape in international soccer is constantly changing, and change is what ultimately resulted in the United States Women's National Team winning this summer's 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup. Eleven of the players who made up the 2015 World Cup winning side for the United States, were replaced for this year's edition of the tournament. It wasn't just any eleven players either. Those players who moved on or were moved on included the likes of Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Lauren Holiday, and Hope Solo. Those are four players who probably first come to mind when thinking of the USWNT and were part of the furniture of this team for the better part of a decade plus, so replacing these players was always going to be hard and Jill Ellis knew that.

In the year's since that World Cup win, Ellis has given first caps to twenty seven(!!) players, as well as giving call-ups to numerous others who unfortunately for them couldn't get on the field. This was unheard of within the USWNT for numerous reasons ranging from the unique contract structure between the USWNT and it's players, the lack of a consistent pro league in the United States, and how this team was just very hard to break into. Of those 27 given their first caps post 2015, only seven, Mallory Pugh, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Emily Sonnett, Rose Lavelle, Adrianna Franch and Jessica McDonald made the roster this year. With all of that being said, we should expect to see similar, if not even more dramatic turnover within the roster between now and when a ball is first kicked in 2023. Let's go through the 2019 roster and see where each player potentially stands come 2023. 

One last side note, I do not expect to see dramatic turnover for next summer's Olympics, barring injury or severe dip in form from multiple players, I fully expect next summer's 18 player roster to be made up almost exclusively of players from this past World Cup roster. 

The USWNT won a second consecutive World Cup this summer, but some of the key contributors may not be back in 2023. (photo via nypost.com)
The USWNT won a second consecutive World Cup this summer, but some of the key contributors may not be back in 2023. (photo via nypost.com)

Alyssa Naeher

Naeher will be 35 in 2023, and while it may be unclear at this point whether she'll still be playing then, if she is, I would still expect her to be challenging for the starting role with this team. 

Mallory Pugh

Pugh will be 25, entering the prime of her career, and most likely have locked down on of the starting wing positions, if she's healthy she's going.

Sam Mewis

Mewis will be 30 at this point, she's already good enough to start every game at this point, but due to this team's depth she hasn't been able to fully separate herself and make her an undoubted starter. Either way, starter or reserve player, she's too good of a player to leave at home. 

Becky Sauerbrunn

With Sauerbrunn, we reach our first true question mark, she'll have just turned 38 when the tournament starts and at this most recent World Cup looked shaky and below her 'Mrs. Perfect' standard that we all have come to expect from her. She most likely won't be a starter, if she's still playing come 2023, but I could maybe see her make the roster in a similar role to what Rampone did in 2015. 

Kelley O'Hara

O'Hara is another big question mark. She will be 34, and you don't normally see starting fullbacks that old at this level of international soccer. That being said, she brings an offensive quality that not many other fullbacks can really offer at this point. She has a fantastic motor and is probably the fittest out of all the players in the US player pool, which will bode well for her moving forward and keeping some sort of role on this team. 

Morgan Brian

Brian was an interesting addition to this roster as many expected her to miss out due to a lack of call-ups in recent months. She did go the full 90 in a match against Chile and did play well, but I don't believe she is in Jill Ellis' long-term plans. Part of that is not quite living up to the hype that was expected of her after her strong 2015 World Cup, but injuries have played a huge role in her not being able to get consistent playing time. Injuries have severely affected her tenure with both Lyon and now the Chicago Red Stars. Not only do I expect her not to make the 2023 World Cup roster, there's a very good chance she won't be on next summer's Olympic roster either.

Abby Dahlkemper

Abby Dahlkemper played an excellent World Cup despite being considered by many as the "weak link" of the back four. She's 26, and will be 30 by 2023. Not only do I expect her to make the next World Cup roster, the USWNT could very well have found their new stalwart in the middle of their defense for years to come. 

Julie Ertz

Ertz is an interesting one for me. She's 27, and has already won two World Cups, playing vital roles in the winning of both of them. If she were to win a Gold Medal next summer at the Olympics, and experience club success in NWSL, how much is there left for her to accomplish? Based off of what we've seen of her, she is ultra-competitive and probably has her eyes set on winning three or even four World Cups. However, she is married and has already accomplished a lot at an early age, if she wants to start a family, doing so after the upcoming Olympics would be an optimal time to do so as it gives her enough time to come back and re-establish herself as the dominant player she is both in the midfield and in defense. 

Lindsey Horan

Horan in my opinion, is the best American player currently playing, and the fact she played a minutes equivalent of fewer than four games at a World Cup the USWNT won, shows how tough it is to crack this starting lineup. I do believe she will and the United States will be better for it, either way, she's a lock for 2023.

Carli Lloyd

This was definitely Lloyd's World Cup swansong, but it may very well be the last time we see her at a major tournament for the USWNT. In contrast with her all-world performance four years ago, Lloyd played in mainly a super-sub role this summer, a role in which she did well in. Despite this success, she voiced her displeasure in not being a regular starter. With a roster crunch coming next summer, her diminishing playing time, and Lloyd turning 37 in the coming days, she may end up being a roster casualty come next summer.

Ali Krieger

Krieger was most likely the last player to make this roster. Having been out of the fold for most of the past two years, her inclusion came as a bit of a shock, which mainly came down to a lack of depth in the fullback position. Krieger is 34 and despite playing well in both the center and right side of defense for the Orlando Pride, Father Time is still undefeated. I can see her making the Olympic roster depending on how Ellis evaluates her fullback options in the next year or so, but having a 38 year old fullback make the roster as a reserve is basically unheard of and probably won't be heard in four years time.

Tierna Davidson

Despite playing only one game out of her natural position in the World Cup, Tierna Davidson looks likely to be a mainstay on this US team for the better part of the next decade. Not only will she make the 2023 roster, there's a very good chance she's starting at that point.

Alex Morgan

Morgan, now 30, has two World Cup victories and an Olympic gold to her name. Add that to a century of goals with her national team, an NWSL title with the Portland Thorn FC, as well as a Champions League victory with Lyon, and you're looking at a career that would be considered legendary if it ended tomorrow. As we all know however, it isn't ending tomorrow, and will most likely continue for many yeas to come. She also falls into a similar situation as Ertz, and we may see her decide to start a family in the near future and try to come back for 2023. Either way, despite her being 33 in four years time, she'll have roster spot saved with her name on it. 

Emily Sonnett

Sonnett has sort of fallen off the radar slightly. She's played well with Portland, and is good enough to be a part of this team for at least next Summer's Olympics. The question is however, when is she going to take that next step and really start pushing for that starting job? At 25, she's beginning to enter the prime of her career and if she doesn't show she can push for the starting job, her role could be very easily taken over by a younger player come 2023. 

Megan Rapinoe

At 34, there's a very good chance Rapinoe has played her last World Cup match. She still has tremendous technical skill and can still hit a dime with a cross from 30 yards away, but once again time is catching up to her. She'll most likely make the Olympic team, but time, as well as three past ACL injuries will at some point catch up to her. 

Rose Lavelle

The breakout star of this tournament, Rose Lavelle has solidified herself as the starting number 10 on this team for years to come, hell yeah she's going in 2023. 

Tobin Heath

Another big question mark is Tobin Heath. She'll be 35 next World Cup, despite that, I think she has a very good chance of making the roster. Even though she's a winger, she has never relied on speed to make her game work, and even in four years all of the flicks and tricks we've grown to know and love about her will still be there. I could see her start to transition to a more central role and used later in her career as a sub who's creativity and dribbling ability will be used to break down an opponent who has stifled the USWNT's offence to that point. 

Ashlyn Harris

Harris' situation is tough to figure out. She's 33 and turning 34 in October, she has an extensive injury history, and doesn't look like she'll be allowed to fight for that starting goalkeeper role. She most likely makes the Olympic roster, but at 37, 2023 looks increasingly unlikely. 

Crystal Dunn

Dunn's versatility and overall package as not only a great athlete, but also great technical ability makes her indispensable for this team. At 30 in 2023, she'll still be at the peak of her powers and a starter somewhere for this team.

Allie Long

Long's situation is tough to read. At 31, she still provides value in the short-term, the question is what is said value to Jill Ellis? She'll either be the last cut, or the last addition to the Olympic roster, and most likely that will be her last major tournament for the USWNT. 

Jessica McDonald

Jess McDonald was probably the best feel-good story of this USWNT win. The only mom on this team, she has played for six different NWSL teams in six years, and contemplated retirement multiple times. Despite that, she managed to get her first senior call up at 28, make her first World Cup roster at 31, and now is not only a two-time NWSL champion, but a World Cup champion. She now seems to have found a great situation with the North Carolina Courage, and will hopefully continue to play for years to come. When it comes to her national team future, it's complicated. There really isn't another forward in the US player pool with her skill-set in terms her aerial presence as well as her assisting abilities. Because of this there is a slim chance we see her in 2023. 

Christen Press

Press is 30, will turn 31 in December, and still provides value to this team. Her pace and technical ability both through the middle and on the wings is something that gives the USWNT some tactical flexibility when it comes to their forward setup. But at 35, you would have to imagine that another player comes along with a similar skill-set and potentially pushes Press off the roster for 2023. 

Hallie Mace will look to force her way onto the USWNT soon | Source: uclabruins.com
Hallie Mace will look to force her way onto the USWNT soon | Source: uclabruins.com

Much like in the last cycle, we will most likely see around 50% of this roster change in four years time. When it comes to potential players who could enter the fray and push for a spot in 2023, the likes of Hallie Mace, Tegan McGrady, and Emily Fox come to mind on defense. Danielle Colaprico, Haley Hanson, and Andi Sullivan look like potential candidates in midfield. When it comes to forwards, Kealia Ohai, Catarina Macario, and Ashley Sanchez are names that roll off of the tongue very easily. Finally, for goalkeepers, Casey Murphy and Katelyn Rowland look to be the two goalkeepers closest to breaking through onto this roster. 

With 2023 obviously being a long way away form now, a lot of what I said could be correct, or most likely wrong. A lot can change in four years, and not just the players, but the coach as well. Jill Ellis has been the coach for five years already, and has been in charge for more games of the USWNT than any other coach in program history. Having the same head coach for three World Cup cycles is almost unheard of, but when said coach won the first two of those World Cups, there's a decent chance they'll give her a shot at a third. 

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