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Is there a space for Croix Bethune on the Olympic roster?

Croix Bethune celebrates after scoring against the San Diego Wave
Photo Copyright Amber Searls for USA TODAY Sports

At the conclusion of the Washington Spirit’s match against the San Diego Wave on Saturday night, fans appeared to be reacting to a win. The sellout crowd (19,897 people) for the Juneteenth game jumped, shrieked, and cheered when the game came to a close.

The weird thing? The Spirit hadn’t won. They had only tied the game, but in dramatic fashion. After struggling to find the back of the net for more than 90 minutes, rookie phenom Croix Bethune scored the game’s equalizer in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Bethune has become an indomitable force on the Spirit’s front line, and questions about her national team viability are beginning to circulate. With the Olympics just around the corner, one has to wonder – does Bethune have a shot at making the roster? 

Anyone who has followed the National Women’s Soccer League this season knows more than a thing or two about Bethune. The rookie can’t seem to stop breaking records and scoring or contributing to goals. She’s already earned the Rookie of the Month twice this season and was the first NWSL rookie to earn the accolade twice in a row. And with her 90+6 minute goal on Saturday night, she became the first player in NWSL history to score more than one result-changing goal in regular season play after the 90+5 minute. 

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For her talents, Bethune is earning recognition beyond the league. She was recently called up for her first senior national team camp, in late May 2024, as an alternate. She did not, however, see playing time and is still awaiting her first cap with the U.S. women’s national team. But with her stock only rising as the Olympics loom around the corner, could she have a shot at making the team?

Bethune has certainly made the case for herself as an invaluable player. The two-time rookie of the year has five goals through 13 matches this season. And when she’s not scoring, she’s helping tremendously. She’s recorded eight assists in 11 matches and recently became the first rookie and fifth player in NWSL history to record three assists in one game. 

Perhaps even more valuably, Bethune has proven that she can adapt when a game isn’t going her way. For a Spirit team that has gotten used to both leading early and winning – especially at home – Saturday night’s match against San Diego presented some new challenges. “They were very wide, and it was hard for us to press,” Bethune explained in the post-game press conference. “There was a lot of space in the midfield, and at the half, we readjusted our whole shape.” 

And making readjustments isn’t hard for someone like Bethune, who wants to win and always sees a way. “I just had to continue to go,” Bethune said, reflecting on her late goal. “The game isn’t over until the last whistle. At the end of the day, I had a feeling we weren’t going to lose. And then the ball fell to my feet.” 

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Bethune’s skill, tenacity, and drive make her a great candidate for the national team’s Olympic roster. The only problem is – there may not be a gap for her to fill. The five likely forwards to head to Paris next month are Mallory Swanson, Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith, Jaedyn Shaw, and Alex Morgan. The first four aforementioned players are in some of the best shapes of their careers. And as talented as Bethune is, she lacks the national team experience that could make her the cohesive player the Olympic Team may need. 

It’s not impossible that Bethune could take Alex Morgan’s spot, though that’s also an unlikely possibility. Morgan, who has slowed down in recent years, still remains a valuable player at 34 and is likely to receive the Olympic call-up as a nod to her historic career. And there still remains the option for Bethune to be one of four alternates called up with the Olympic roster, ready to take over in the case of a tournament-ending injury to any of the rostered players. 

The Olympic roster is likely to be announced this week. If Bethune somehow squeezes her way onto it, it won’t come as a total shock to those who have followed her season. It would, however, be fascinating to see whose spot she would take. After a few years of struggling to generate a powerful offense, the U.S. national team seems to have found some answers with its current front line. But Bethune’s soccer IQ, spacial awareness, and fight-to-the-end attitude could be the element that takes the team this summer from good to great. 

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