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2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup

Veterans or radical change? Five possible USWNT Gold Cup lineups

Emma Hayes loves tactical flexibility. The USWNT is in transition. How–and who–does she want to play?

Photo Copyright Jon Durr for USA TODAY Sports.

When was the last time the U.S. women’s national team’s starting XI was a true tabula rasa heading into a competitive tournament? Interim head coach Twila Kilgore, in consultation with head coach-elect Emma Hayes, has named a 23-player side for the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup where two, possibly three starting spots are guaranteed. The rest of the lineup is up for grabs. 

What’s more, this is the youngest U.S. roster in more than a decade. The ratio of 25-and-under players to 30-and-over players hasn’t been this large since the 2011 World Cup, and had Alana Cook not been injured, that ratio would have inched up further. The average age of 26.6 is also the lowest for a tournament squad in more than a decade. What had been suspected for months has now been confirmed: the U.S. is undertaking a massive generational transition. 

This is the perfect time to do it, too. The Concacaf W Gold Cup was developed to give sides in the confederation more competitive games. Placing the tournament in February and March allows for high-level preparation for the Olympics this summer. While the natural preseason flow has been disrupted for the 20 players plying their trade in the NWSL, the international benefits for these players are self-evident. 

So, what do Hayes and Kilgore want this team to be? Many things at once, one expects. Speaking at the team’s media day, the theme from the players was the same: the evolution for the side will be heightened tactical awareness, geared toward specific opponents. This jibes with what we know about Hayes in her dozen seasons at Chelsea. 

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