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2023 Women's World Cup

Five changes the USWNT must make now

From designing a system to fit the players, to testing multiple formations, there’s a lot to be done after the 2023 World Cup flop

Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

What’s next for the United States women’s national team? While the ‘Who?’ questions will dominate conversation around the coaching search, the what is the important part after the team’s worst-ever performance at a World Cup.

Penalty-shootout defeat to Sweden in the Round of 16 may have been unfortunate, but it came on the back of a disappointing group stage, and two years on from an underwhelming Olympic showing in Tokyo. If the U.S. is to return to its historic high standards, the need for change is evident. Vlatko Andonovski will not continue as coach, a fate that was obvious upon the team’s exit.

What should that change look like? Here are a few suggestions.

Players first, system second

When planning ahead, the national team selection should focus on getting the best out of its key players. Rather than committing to a specific system of play, it must first consider the qualities of its most talented personnel and work back from there.

Naomi Girma has nailed down a starting position at centerback, and that won’t change anytime soon. Nor should it: she has been exceptional for club and country over the last 18 months, handling a rapid ascent with remarkable composure. Sophia Smith has starred for the Portland Thorns as a striker in the same time, and that should be her role for the United States. Catarina Macario has demonstrated her talent in Europe with Lyon and in friendlies for the U.S. She is already one of the world’s best playmakers. And, like Smith and Girma, she is only 23 years old, meaning she will be in her prime come the next World Cup in 2027.

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