The first U.S. women’s national team roster since the 2023 World Cup features two exciting newcomers, Mia Fishel and Jaedyn Shaw, but zero hints at which veterans might ultimately make way for them at future tournaments.
There are 10 months until the Paris Olympics and an urgent need to evolve after the worst World Cup in program history. But rather than accelerate evolution with an experimental roster for two September friendlies against South Africa, U.S. Soccer recalled the entire World Cup squad, plus a few fringe players and youngsters, making exceptions only for injuries.
That means Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara and other veterans are included. Julie Ertz and Megan Rapinoe will get “farewell games” in Cincinnati (Sept. 21) and Chicago (Sept. 24), respectively.
In total, 21 of the 23 players who exited the World Cup in the Round of 16 are back; only Sophia Smith and Kristie Mewis were excluded due to post-World Cup injuries.
They will be coached by Twila Kilgore, a former assistant to Vlatko Andonovski who stepped into the head coach role on an interim basis after Andonovski resigned last month. But it’s unclear how much say Kilgore had in shaping the roster.
"As we continue the search for our new head coach, we felt it was best to call up all of World Cup players who are fit to play, while also bringing in some players that we believe can help us moving forward as we start our preparations for the Olympics next year," sporting director Matt Crocker said in a statement via U.S. Soccer.
Crocker was the first person quoted in a news release announcing the roster, which features 27 players in total.
USWNT roster for September friendlies vs. South Africa
(Non-2023 World Cup players in italics.)
Goalkeepers: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars), Kelley O’Hara (Gotham FC), Emily Sonnett (OL Reign)
Midfielders: Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns), Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville), Julie Ertz (Unattached), Lindsey Horan (Lyon), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
Forwards: Mia Fishel (Chelsea), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Jaedyn Shaw (San Diego Wave), Alyssa Thompson (Angel City), Lynn Williams (Gotham FC)
Ertz, who announced her retirement from soccer two weeks ago, will depart after the first of two friendlies. Rapinoe, who announced prior to the World Cup that she’ll retire at the end of the National Women’s Soccer League season, will only play in the second.
The question is who’ll play alongside them. These games, against a fellow World Cup Round of 16 participant, require a tricky balance between commemorating the past and preparing for the near- and long-term future. Both Ertz and Rapinoe undoubtedly deserve celebrations. Others, like Morgan, someday will as well, and many of the veterans who played in 2023 would play in 2024 if the U.S. is intent on chasing Olympic gold.
But Morgan will be 38 in July 2027, come the next World Cup. O’Hara will be 38 going on 39. Alyssa Naeher will be 39; Crystal Dunn will be 35; Lynn Williams will be 34. Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Andi Sullivan and Emily Sonnett will all be well into their 30s. And every minute they play between now and Paris will be a minute that the next generation won’t get.
Some of that next generation is already entrenched in the USWNT. Smith, Trinity Rodman, Alyssa Thompson and Naomi Girma look like the core. But the core needs to expand.
One likely addition is Catarina Macario, who still hasn't fully recovered from a June 2022 ACL tear, according to Kilgore.
Two other potential members are Shaw, 18, and Fishel, 22, the two uncapped players on this roster.
Fishel bypassed the NWSL after three seasons at UCLA to sign with Tigres in Mexico. She tore up the Liga MX Femenil for a season and a half, prompting a consistent chorus of fans to advocate for a national team call-up. It never came; but nonetheless, Fishel earned a summer move to Chelsea, the English champion and one of the world’s top clubs. Her fit with the USWNT isn’t quite clear, but her talent is. She should be given every opportunity to contend for a spot on the Olympic roster.
Shaw is perhaps further away from being a USWNT regular, but she has impressed ever since turning pro at age 17, bypassing college to sign with the NWSL’s San Diego Wave. She could, potentially, play anywhere across a front line or as a No. 10. She appears to be one of the best young playmakers in the U.S. pool.
It’s unclear, though, what or how much their presence on this roster will mean. The search for Andonovski’s replacement is ongoing. Future opportunities will be in that replacement’s hands.
"We're looking forward to having the opportunity to honor the players who have decided to retire but also know these games are valuable as the first steps towards Paris,” Crocker, who is leading the coaching search, said in his statement. “Once the new head coach comes in, that individual will assess the player pool and make roster decisions that will be focused on building a team for the future."