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2023 Women's World Cup

How pandemic, injuries have shaped USWNT’s World Cup roster overhaul

The weirdest four-year cycle in history is about to reach its climax. Will it end with success?

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

When Vlatko Andonovski took over the United States women’s national team job near the end of 2019, he was tasked with something extremely difficult: Revamp the player pool while maintaining the program’s lofty standards of excellence.

There would be a short run-up to the Olympics which would likely be the end of the line for veterans like Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe. After the Olympics would come two developmental years during which the roster would be turned over like never before.

But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to Andonovski’s first World Cup. A global pandemic in early 2020 shut down the sport along with much of the world. In the short term, the team did not convene for much of 2020, and the Olympics were pushed back a year. The delay gave Alex Morgan extra time to make the roster after pregnancy would have made the 2020 timeline extremely difficult. It also kept veterans around another year and cost Andonovski about 16 months of developing younger players and expanding the pool.

“You are correct, I did not have a pandemic as part of my plan or vision,” Andonovski said when asked on Wednesday’s conference call naming his 23-player roster. “It did force us to alter the plan a little bit.”

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