With the eighth FIFA Women’s World Cup kicking off on Friday, Team USA prepares to defend its 2015 title and conquer a fourth Women’s World Cup title. Entering this year’s tournament, team USA boasts a team filled with veterans and newcomers. Familiar faces like Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan return to the pitch, while former icons Abby Wambach and Hope Solo will be watching as fans.
Let’s take a look at five players to keep an eye for Team USA in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
At the age of 33, Megan Rapinoe has been a member of Team USA since 2006. Over the past few years, Rapinoe has been playing arguably the best soccer of her career for the Seattle Reign FC of the National Women’s Soccer League (NSWL). Entering this year’s tournament, Rapinoe prepares for her third World Cup appearance, having been a member of the 2011 and 2015 teams. Rapinoe was also a member of the Olympic Gold Medal-winning 2012 Team USA group. In what could be her final World Cup appearance, the crafty forward will play a major role in the success of Team USA.
After scoring a record-setting three goals in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, Carli Lloyd became an American hero. All three of Lloyd’s goals came within the first 16 minutes of the game en route to a dominant 5-2 victory over Team Japan. Although Lloyd was pivotal for Team USA in 2015, expect her role to diminish this year. At the age of 36, Lloyd is the oldest and longest-tenured member of Team USA. Although she is still an impact player, the two-time FIFA Player of the Year will likely come off the bench. However, with her unparalleled work ethic and big stage experience, Lloyd will undoubtedly make her impact known this tournament.
For more than a decade, Hope Solo defended Team USA in goal unlike anyone before. Her various records and stellar statistics make her arguably the greatest goalkeeper in the history of women’s soccer. After making controversial comments during the 2016 Rio Olympics, Solo’s contract was terminated by Team USA. Although many speculate that Solo may return to Team USA in the future, it appears that she has shifted her focus on equal payment Women, and will not play again until progress is made. With this in mind, Alyssa Naeher will make her first World Cup start for Team USA in net. Since 2014, Naeher has been Solo’s backup for Team USA. A skilled and composed goalkeeper, Naeher has thrived as the goalkeeper for the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL. Although Naeher is one of the better goalies in women’s soccer, the 2019 Women’s World Cup marks the biggest test of her career. Will Naeher be able to handle the big stage, or will she fold under pressure? Only time will tell for one of Team USA’s biggest question marks entering the tournament.
The 29-year-old Co-Captain and longtime member of Team USA is one of six other Americans to score over 100 career goals in her international career. Entering the 2019 tournament, Morgan prepares for her third World Cup appearance with Team USA. Although Morgan is close to 30, her game has not slowed down a bit. In the 2015 World Cup, Morgan played through a knee injury that required her to come off the bench for the first two games. This season, Morgan enters the tournament completely healthy and will look to be a top scoring option for the defending champions.
At the ripe age of 21, Mallory Pugh is one of the youngest members of Team USA. A standout-player in high school, Pugh received both the U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year and Gatorade National Female Soccer Player of the Year Awards in 2015 and 2016 before beginning her professional career in 2017. The speedy forward looks to provide energy and youth to a group that is led by experienced veterans. Expect Pugh to be the breakout candidate for Team USA this year and get used to the name. She’s the future of women’s soccer.