Which 18 players will make the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer roster?

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There are 25 U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) players in the mix for 18 Olympic roster sports. Who will make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics?

The answer to that will likely be clearer at the conclusion of the upcoming 2021 Summer Series. Over the next week, the USWNT will face off against Portugal (Thursday, June 10), Jamaica (Sunday, June 13), and Nigeria (Wednesday, June 16).

The USWNT Summer Series roster includes 23 players, though a total of 25 players (including Julie Ertz and Tobin Heath, who are both coming back from injury) are expected to be in the mix for the 18-player Olympic roster.

Ahead of this week’s games, On Her Turf caught up with Danielle Slaton, who was a member of the U.S. women’s national team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The upcoming Tokyo Olympics will mark Slaton’s second Games serving as an analyst for NBC.

USWNT Goalkeepers for the 2021 Summer Series (2/3 will likely make 2021 U.S. Olympic roster):

Jane Campbell, Adrianna Franch, Alyssa Naeher

On Her Turf: Let’s start with the goalkeepers. Two-time World Cup champion Alyssa Naeher has established herself as the top USWNT goalie in recent years. With only two goalies expected to be named to the Tokyo Olympic roster, what’s your sense of how Jane Campbell and Adrianna Franch stack up?

Danielle Slaton: You said it. Alyssa Naeher is the clear number one for the U.S. women’s national team. There’s no question there, in my mind. So it’s really going to be a tough battle between Jane Campbell (Houston Dash) and Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC).

Both have played incredibly well for their NWSL teams. And in the goalkeeping position, you have to do that. Because when you’re the number two goalie on the national team, you’re not going to get too many minutes in a national team jersey.

During the NWSL Challenge Cup last summer, Houston won and Jane Campbell had a fantastic tournament.

And then at the most recent Challenge Cup this spring, Portland won – and Franch had a huge role in their success.

I think the question is: is Adrianna Franch healthy?

If she’s healthy, I would probably give her the nod. Because she’s had a tremendous amount of success lately.

To me, this is a decision that [U.S. head coach] Vlatko Andonovski will make in training. Training carries a ton of weight, especially for goalkeepers.

We’ll see if either Campbell or Franch gets a start in the summer series games. I think who gets the start against which opponent could be an indicator of which way Vlatko may be leaning.

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USWNT Defenders for the 2021 Summer Series (6/8 will likely make 2021 U.S. Olympic roster):

Alana Cook, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Kelley O’Hara Midge Purce, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Emily Sonnett

On Her Turf: Moving on to the defenders… who feels like a lock at this point?

Danielle Slaton: The reality is: you don’t change your backline that much. To me, the clear center backs are Abby Dahlkemper and captain Becky Sauerbrunn. There is no doubt in my mind that they are the two starting center backs.

So then the question is: who’s going to be the substitute for that position? I think it comes down to Alana Cook and Tierna Davidson.

Davidson has more experience, but we haven’t really had the opportunity to see Cook. She wasn’t able to play with the USWNT in April because her club team – Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) – didn’t release her. The great news for Cook is she’s gotten really good competition playing for PSG, and they’ve had a lot of recent success [including ending Lyon’s streak of 14 consecutive titles].

If Cook performs out of this world at these upcoming games, maybe she bumps Tierna Davidson and makes the Olympic roster. If not, Cook is certainly someone to consider for the future. I expect her to have a very successful women’s national team career.

When you look at the outside backs, you have Crystal Dunn on the left and Kelley O’Hara on the right. Those seem to be the two outside backs that Vlatko tends to lean towards. So the question becomes: is the substitute for that position Emily Sonnett or Midge Purce?

Sonnett has a lot of experience; she was on the 2019 World Cup roster. But Purce provides an attacking weapon out of the back.

Another advantage for Purce is that she is so versatile; she’s an attacker for her club team, Gotham FC. Purce would give Vlatko some flexibility, especially given that the Olympic roster is only 18 players.

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USWNT Midfielders for the 2021 Summer Series (6/7 will likely make 2021 U.S. Olympic roster):

Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario, Kristie Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Andi Sullivan

+ Julie Ertz, who was ruled out of the summer series due to an MCL injury

On Her Turf: Moving on to the midfield. There are six players on the USWNT roster for the 2021 Summer Series but that doesn’t include Julie Ertz, who is out with an MCL injury. While is sounds like Ertz could return in time for the Olympics, how does her absence impact what the roster might look like?

Danielle Slaton: Yeah, that’s the biggest question. Julie Ertz has been rock solid for the U.S. women’s national team at the number six position (defensive center midfielder) – and maybe, a little bit, to the detriment of the team.

In the past, there hasn’t been a question about who was playing that position because Ertz owned it – so there’s not a lot of depth and experience behind her. So the fact that she is currently out has really forced Vlatko to ask some hard questions about who could replace her there.

I think that’s why Andi Sullivan was brought into this camp. In my mind, Sullivan is the like-for-like substitution for Ertz.

That’s the biggest thing I’ll be watching for in this next three games: how is Andi Sullivan performing?

I know Sullivan is talented, but is she ready to step up? How does she do in this moment?

And if she is not performing, what is Vlatko’s Plan B? Plan C? Plan D?

Maybe those options include bringing Sam Mewis back to be more of a defensive presence. We’ve also heard Vlatko mention that Emily Sonnett or Tierna Davidson could fill in for Ertz. Keep in mind that Ertz was a defender at the 2015 World Cup who made the transition to midfield, so perhaps he believes either of those players can make that adjustment as well. I wonder if it will be an option we’ll see during this summer series.

Thursday’s game against Portugal is the game I’m most eager to see because Portugal can move the ball. So that midfield presence is going to be very important.

On Her Turf: In terms of evaluating a player who is coming back from injury… including a player who is not at 100% on an 18-player Olympic roster is a lot riskier than adding them to a 23-player World Cup roster. What’s your sense of how those decisions are made?

Danielle Slaton: Yeah, when you carry 18 players on a roster, there’s not a lot of room for error. I think Vlatko is going to have to make some hard decisions in that regard because health is probably the number one factor of whether or not you’re going to be on this Olympic roster or not.

What gets tricky is: what does it mean to be healthy? 70%? 80%? 90%?

I think back to the Rio Olympics, when Megan Rapinoe was coming off of an ACL injury and she made that roster. And in the quarterfinal game against Sweden [where the U.S. was ultimately eliminated], she subbed in, but then was subbed out after less than 30 minutes. So was it the right call for her to be on that roster? Maybe yes, maybe no.

On Her Turf: As you mentioned earlier, Crystal Dunn has established herself at left back for the national team. But she plays midfield for the Portland Thorns. Could she be an option to fill in for Ertz?

Danielle Slaton: Yeah, Crystal Dunn can pretty much play any position except for goalkeeper. And honestly, she’s so athletic that if she had to play in goal, I might take it for a few minutes here or there.

So she can play in the midfield, she can play up front. She is very, very talented. That’s one of the things she brings to this team and one of the things that Vlatko probably likes about her: she brings a lot of versatility.

So sure, she could play that defensive center back position. But then the question becomes: if you move Crystal Dunn out of left back, the U.S. isn’t really that deep at left back. So who fills that role? Where does the waterfall stop?

Personally, I would solve the midfield problem with the midfielder rather than solving it with Crystal Dunn. But in a pinch, can she move there? Certainly.

On Her Turf: So in terms of filling out the other midfielders around that number six position…

Danielle Slaton: To me, there’s no question that Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, and Sam Mewis make the Olympic roster. And ultimately, I do think Julie Ertz is going to make the roster, too.

So that leaves two spots.

If there’s a question about whether Ertz can play consistently like she has in the past, you need to bring a player like Andi Sullivan.

So then it’s down to one spot between Kristie Mewis and Catarina Macario.

To me, I think Catarina Macario has a higher ceiling than Kristie Mewis, but right now, Kristie Mewis might be playing better football. Macario has been a little bit up and down; she has had some really great moments, but there have also been moments when she’s kind of disappeared.

On Her Turf: What have you thought of Kristie Mewis as she has reclaimed a spot on the national team over the last in the last eight-or-so months?

Danielle Slaton: It’s been really fun to see Kristie’s progress. It would be fun to see Kristie and Sam be on the Olympic roster together, so that kind of tugs at my heartstrings. But I think it’s going to come down to fit. Where are the gaps and does a player like Kristie Mewis fill those gaps better than Macario? Or vise versa?

RELATED: For the first time in six years, there are two Mewis sisters on the USWNT

USWNT Forwards for the 2021 Summer Series (4/7 will likely make 2021 U.S. Olympic roster):

Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe, Sophia Smith, Lynn Williams

+ Tobin Heath, who isn’t on the official summer series roster, but is joining camp as a training player as she comes back from a knee injury

On Her Turf: Finally, moving up to the forwards. Right now, there are seven players in the mix for what is likely to be four spots. Who has surprised you in the last few months?

Danielle Slaton: I gotta say, six months ago at the start of January camp, I was like, ‘There’s no way that Carli Lloyd is making that Olympic roster.’

And shame on me for betting against Carli Lloyd. It’s like betting against Tom Brady or LeBron James. You just don’t do it.

Because Carli is a fighter and a competitor. She’s making a very strong case for not only making this roster, but potentially being the starting number nine (striker) on the Olympic roster.

On Her Turf: Going back to early January… At that point, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe all seemed questionable. Lloyd was coming back from an injury, Rapinoe opted out of both 2020 NWSL tournaments, and Morgan had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was also still getting limited minutes as she came back from giving birth. But at this point, do you think there’s a chance that all three of those players make the Olympic roster for Tokyo?

Danielle Slaton: A few months ago, I was also thinking it’s either Morgan or Lloyd. There’s no way both of them make this team. But I think the extra year has given Alex Morgan the time she needed to come back from the birth of her daughter. I think she’s been playing particularly well recently, both for the U.S. team and also for the Orlando Pride.

So I think Lloyd and Morgan provide a lot of options, and they both make my roster. Yeah, other players can play striker. But you need somebody who’s going to put the ball in the back of the net. Period. No questions asked. And both of those players can do that.

Scoring a goal is the hardest thing to do in soccer. And yet, both Lloyd and Morgan consistently find a way to make it happen.

And then Megan Rapinoe – she’s been playing well, too. She is somebody who steps up in the big moments and I think she’s got a chip on her shoulder from Rio, where she wasn’t able to participate in the way that she would have liked.

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So I would have all three of them – Lloyd, Morgan, Rapinoe – on my roster. It’s not so much a question of whether they should be in, but it’s that I can’t cross them off.

I guess the question is: how durable are they? Yes they’ve got the experience, but at the Olympics, the games are back-to-back. And because there are only 12 teams in the tournament, you are always up against top opponents. So you’re playing top-level games right from the start. But I feel like all three of them could be on this roster. No question.

And then Christen Press has been fantastic. She’s consistently solid.

My biggest question: is Tobin Heath healthy? She provides something that no other woman on this roster provides: her flair, her creativity, and her soccer IQ.

In a recent interview, Vlatko said she’s on track to be back by the Olympics. He’s a guy who pretty much tells the truth, but I haven’t seen her play. So I don’t know if she’s truly as far along as what’s being said.

Sophia Smith is a very good player, but I think she’s a future player. I think she’s going to be the next generation of the U.S. women’s national team.

And then I know Lynn Williams is highly favored by Vlatko. She’s gotten a ton of minutes in 2021. I think the one thing that’s advantageous for her is that she provides a different look; she’s more direct, she’s more vertical. And she’s obviously got the speed and the ability to get in behind.

I don’t rate her quite as highly as Vlatko does. That might one of those things where you have to agree to disagree with the head coach. He’s the one that makes the decision, I just critique and discuss them.

On Her Turf: Is there anything else that will be on your radar during the upcoming USWNT Summer Series?

Danielle Slaton: The biggest thing for me is just trying to suss out what the starting 11 looks like. And then looking at the bubble players that are performing well and making a case to be on that 18-player roster.

Any one of these women could make the Olympic roster, no question. But there are only 18 spots. I do not envy Vlatko when it comes to making that decision.

I think he can probably go any number of ways and he probably wouldn’t be wrong. Because this is the deepest roster that the United States has ever had.

RELATED: 100 ways women can make Olympic and Paralympic history (No. 31-40)

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Kaillie Humphries elevates another fresh U.S. face to podium status in two-woman bobsled World Cup

Kaillie Humphries of USA, Kaysha Love of USA in action at the 2 women's bobsleigh during Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
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PARK CITY, UTAH – Kaillie Humphries extended her podium streak on Saturday at the IBSF World Cup, where she and U.S. push athlete Jasmine Jones finished third in the two-woman bobsled.

The third-place finish in Park City marked the sixth podium for Humphries at the Park City track, which hosted the 2002 Olympics, and was Jones’ career-first World Cup podium in just her second World Cup start.

“This is our first race together, so really excited about that,” said the 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic gold medals (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships titles. She earned her 29th career World Cup win on Friday in Park City in the women’s monobob.

“Definitely a work in progress. … The runs weren’t perfect, but I’m really happy with our starts, happy with our drives minus a few little mistakes. It’s a good starting point, and we’ll look to grow from here.”

Humphries and Jones finished with a combined, two-run time of 1:37.69, 0.32 behind winners Kim Kalicki and brakewoman Leonie Fiebig of Germany at 1:37.37. Fellow Germans Laura Nolte and Lena Neunecker were second at 0.23 back.

Kalicki and Fiebig broke a 16-year-old track record with their first run, laying down a time of 48.60 seconds and besting the time set by Americans Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming – the 2006 Olympic silver medalists – in December 2006 (48.73). It also marked the second straight victory for Kalicki, who’s won five career World Cup titles including last week’s two-woman bobsled race in Whistler, Canada.

“I was hoping Kaillie would get [the record],” said Rohbock, who is now a U.S. team coach and was on hand to see her record fall. “That first run there, she had that little skid in the bottom, so that didn’t help, but Kailee’s always putting up a great performance. And Jasmine, another great brakewoman, so we’re really lucky that we have that depth.”

For Team USA, it marked the second straight week that a fresh face earned her first podium finish while competing with Humphries. Last week in Whistler, push athlete Emily Renna and Humphries placed third in Renna’s first-ever World Cup appearance.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP COVERAGE: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“Being able to race with her was really special,” said the 29-year-old Renna, who was a college track athlete at University of Rhode Island. “It’s really nice to be around seasoned veterans. It definitely makes you feel better in the back sled with you when you’ve got a good pilot who knows the track.”

Renna finished in eighth place in Park City with 12-year U.S. team veteran and pilot Nicole Vogt (1:39.04). Vogt partnered with Jones in her first World Cup last week where they finished seventh in Whistler, 1.33 seconds behind winners Kalicki and German teammate Anabel Galander.

“To have an opportunity to be with Kaillie in my World Cup debut – it’s exciting,” said the 26-year-old Jones, who was a collegiate track and field athlete at Eastern Michigan. “I just feel like I have so much more in the tank to give, and I’m just hungry for it.”

Jones is particularly gratified with her performance after returning full-time to bobsled less than 18 months ago following the birth of her daughter, Jade Quinn Jones, in February 2021. The Greensburg, Pa., native returned to training just five months postpartum, having sat out the 2020-21 season. She competed on the North American Cup last year, finishing the season with a win (the third NA Cup title of her career) and a third place in Lake Placid.

“I’m thankful,” said Jones. “Opportunity is the main thing, and I just feel blessed to have my first World Cup podium. I’m screaming on the inside. I may not show it, but I am jumping for joy because I’m just that excited and happy to have this accomplishment.”

She admits, however, it’s not always easy to compete balance a full-time competitive career with being a mom.

“Sometimes it’s a struggle being away from my daughter,” said Jones, whose mom takes care of Jade while she travels. “I try to get my facetimes in every night and just know that when I’m pushing, I’m doing it for her. Hopefully sometime in the future I’ll have her around on the sidelines cheering me on, and that’s my main motivation – that this is for her.”

The BMW IBSF World Cup continues its North American swing Dec. 16-18 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Kaillie Humphries faces IVF journey head on — and collects monobob World Cup win along the way

Gold medallist Kaillie Humphries of Team United States celebrates during the Women's Monobob.
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PARK CITY, UTAH — Kaillie Humphries knew the quest to start a family would impact her 2022-23 season, but it’s certainly not slowing down Team USA’s reigning monobob Olympic gold medalist, who captured her first World Cup title in the discipline on Friday.

The 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic golds (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships, earned her 29th career World Cup win and her third victory on the Park City track, where she won the two-woman bobsled competitions in 2012 and 2016. Competing in Utah – as well as North American World Cup stops in Whistler last week and in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 17-18 – is one of the reasons that Humphries pushed pause on her journey to motherhood.

“I’m excited,” Humphries said following the win, marking her second straight podium in monobob following a third-place finish last week in Whistler. “I was excited for this year before it started. It’s part and parcel of why my husband and I delayed the IVF process and starting a family this season. To be able to be back in North America and have the first half of the season here – it’s been a long time since we’ve had that, so I wanted to be able to compete and it feels awesome.”

That’s not to say the leadup to this season has been without its share of hiccups. In fact, Humphries admits that following the Beijing Olympics, she had hoped to get pregnant immediately, but she and husband Travis Armbruster had to pivot when a diagnosis of stage 4 endometriosis made it clear that in vitro fertilization would be the best path for pregnancy.

“Right after the Olympics, I was like, ‘We’re going to get pregnant; it’s gonna be all good,’” she said. “I thought, my body has always performed, and it wasn’t going to be an issue. Fast forward to I find out we have to do IVF. We do the first egg retrieval, and it doesn’t go as well as I had hoped — which anybody that’s done this process knows, you can’t control any aspect of it. And so having to do a second round of egg retrieval, …it pushed everything back.”

What’s more, it brought Humphries’ training to a standstill at times, when she would have to limit all physical activity during the three-week period surrounding the egg-retrieval process.

“It impacted my training coming into this year a lot,” she says, “but I also think it definitely reset my hormones, which turns out I needed. I don’t think was a bad thing. I knew coming into this year, I wasn’t going to be in the same shape as I have been in the past, and I had to make peace with that. I know that each and every race I’m racing myself into shape, and each race is a preparation for January’s World Championships.”

Humphries also chose to share her IVF journey publicly, and she’s documented every step of the way, believing that her story makes it less scary not just for her but also for other women and female athletes who might be facing the same thing.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“My husband and I weren’t sure that we wanted to share it at first,” she admits. “But I felt it was important just to showcase this. I have nothing to hide. And as much as there are parts of me certain days when I think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ At the end of the day, I know I’m not alone in this.

“It’s important, I do have a voice, and I want other people to know, as an Olympic gold medalist, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Infertility exists in the female body, and it’s important that I talk about it in my journey and hopefully that’s inspired other people.”

She says she’s received an outpouring of support, which has been particularly gratifying as she continues to put a painful breakup with Team Canada in the rearview mirror. Humphries, who was born in Calgary, competed for Canada for 16 years, winning three Olympic medals including a bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018. But the relationship came to an abrupt end later just five months after the 2018 Games, after Humphries alleged emotional and mental harassment by a former coach.

Winning a gold medal in Beijing just two months after her U.S. citizenship was finalized proved to be turning point for Humphries, who commemorated the milestone with two new tattoos. She first added the date of her win – Feb. 14, 2022 – to the back of her left hand and a larger rose and skull illustration to the back of her right knee and calf, all of which commemorate her triumph over that darker period.

“The skull represents a rebirth and a growth, overcoming challenges and/or obstacles and turning something negative into something positive,” explains Humphries, who says she chose the rose because it’s the national flower of the U.S. as well as a symbol of love won or lost. She notes that she has “an actual Olympic one” planned for August 2024, which is when her favorite tattoo artist is next available.

Humphries has also found the silver lining in her IVF journey, as the competition season has been a welcome break from some of the self-imposed pressure.

“By pushing pause for four or five months and competing, it allowed me mentally to know that we can go into all of next summer and all winter focusing on just doing the actual embryo transfers and having a good pregnancy,” she says. “I don’t feel stressed to try and get pregnant right away. I felt like I was becoming competitive with myself, wondering why isn’t this working? Why can’t I do this? I tried to control too many things, and I started to get really frustrated. Mentally, it was hard. So, by pushing pause, going back to what I know — which is the sport, which is what I love – it’s allowed me to control a little bit of my future.”

Humphries’ season continues Saturday as the IBSF World Cup from Park City concludes with the two-woman bobsleigh.