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Kassouf: Predicting the USWNT’s lineup at World Cup qualifying

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Let the speculation about the roster end…and the speculation about how it will all look begin.

United States women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski named his 23-player roster for World Cup qualifying and the group looks a lot like the one which has been called in throughout the first half of 2022. Alex Morgan, who leads the National Women’s Soccer League with nine goals in nine games, returns alongside Megan Rapinoe for the first time since last fall. Christen Press, who tore her ACL on Saturday, was controversially not selected even prior to her injury.

What’s left is a relatively young group — especially by the standards of the U.S., which was the oldest team at both the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, winning both times. With four direct qualification berths available from Concacaf for an expanded World Cup, there is objectively little danger of the U.S. missing out, but for the first time, the Concacaf W Championship is a double-jeopardy event: the winner qualifies directly for the 2024 Olympics while the second- and third-place finishers go to a playoff for the final spot from the region.

The U.S. will navigate the regional tournament without a slew of regulars, from veterans on the outside looking in, to major injuries: Lynn Williams (hamstring), Sam Mewis (knee), Tierna Davidson (torn ACL), Abby Dahlkemper (broken ribs), and Catarina Macario (torn ACL) are among those sidelined. Macario was the focal point of this generational change, the player who, according to Andonovski, made everyone around her better and who everyone looked toward to set the tone of play.

On Monday, Andonovski sang the praises of Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith, calling them the two most exciting players in the NWSL right now. It is difficult to argue that observation objectively. They look like obvious starters for World Cup qualifying, given Andonovski’s praise. What will the rest of the lineup look like?

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