For U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) head coach Vlatko Andonovski, figuring out which 18 players would make the U.S. Olympic roster for Tokyo has been an all-consuming experience.
“It’s probably easier to tell you how often I don’t think about it,” Andonovski said earlier this month. “It’s always in the back of your mind.”
At the Tokyo Olympics, the USWNT will aim to return to the top of the Olympic podium. The 2016 Rio Games marked the first time that the U.S. failed to win an Olympic medal since women’s soccer made its Olympic debut in 1996.
The U.S. women’s soccer team is also aiming to become the first nation to follow a World Cup title with Olympic gold, albeit with an extra year in between given the one-year postponement of the Olympics.
On Wednesday morning, Andonovski was finally able to reveal the 18 players selected for the U.S. women’s soccer team for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
The U.S. women’s soccer roster for the Tokyo Olympics
Tokyo will be the Olympic debut of Adrianna Franch, who is likely to serve as backup goalie behind Naeher at the Games. Franch, who plays professionally for Portland Thorns FC, will be the first women’s soccer player from Kansas to represent the U.S. at the Olympics.
Alyssa Naeher was on the U.S. roster for the 2016 Rio Olympics, but didn’t see any minutes on the pitch. That won’t be the case in Japan. Since 2016, Naeher has become the USWNT’s starting goalie, highlighted by her World Cup-winning performance in 2019.
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Center back Abby Dahlkemper, who signed a professional contract with Manchester City earlier this year, will be making her Olympic debut in Tokyo.
The Tokyo Olympics will also mark the Olympic debut of Tierna Davidson, who at age 22, is the youngest player on the U.S. roster. (She also held the distinction of youngest player on the roster at the 2019 World Cup.) Davidson was born in September 1998, a full two years after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where the U.S. won the inaugural gold medal in women’s soccer.
(Note: Even if Davidson had been alive in 1996, she wouldn’t have been able to watch the USWNT win Olympic gold. That’s because only a few minutes of the game aired on TV. Ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Games, Peacock will be airing that 1996 women’s soccer gold medal game in full.)
Crystal Dunn made her Olympic debut in Rio after being the last player cut from the 2015 World Cup roster. Five years later, Dunn is one of the most consistent players on the pitch. “She brings a lot of versatility,” NBC Olympics soccer analyst Danielle Slaton told On Her Turf earlier this month. “Crystal Dunn can pretty much play any position except for goalkeeper.”
Kelley O’Hara, who typically gets the start at right back, will be making her third Olympic appearance in Tokyo.
U.S. captain Becky Sauerbrunn will be making her third Olympic appearance in Tokyo. At the 2012 London Games, Sauerbrunn played in three matches off the bench. She has since become one of the consistent center backs.
Sauerbrunn, who plays professionally for Portland Thorns FC, is the second-most capped player (186) on this year’s Olympic roster (behind only Carli Lloyd).
Emily Sonnett, a member of the 2019 World Cup championship team, will be making her Olympic debut in Tokyo. Sonnett was considered one of the bubble players for this year’s Olympic roster, but ultimately got the nod.
Julie Ertz, who made her Olympic debut in Rio, is currently returning from an MCL injury that kept her out of the USWNT summer series earlier this month. Andonovski says she is expected to be ready to play when the Olympics begin next month.
The Tokyo Games will mark Lindsey Horan’s second Olympic appearance. Horan saw limited time on the pitch at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but has since become a regular starter in the midfield.
Rose Lavelle will be making her Olympic debut in Tokyo. Lavelle made a big impact in her World Cup debut in 2019, playing six games and scoring three goals, including one in the final against the Netherlands.
Kristie Mewis is the only member of the Tokyo Olympic roster that watched the U.S. win the 2019 World Cup from the stands. Her inclusion on this roster marks a truly incredible comeback story.
Kristie – who is older than sister Sam by 20 months – was the first Mewis sister to be named to the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT), making her debut in 2013. But Sam was never far behind. The 2014 Algarve Cup marked the first time both Mewis sisters competed together for the USWNT. And until 2020, it was the only time both Mewis sisters competed together for the USWNT.
While Sam developed into a national team mainstay, Kristie stopped receiving invitations to camp, and was then sidelined from her professional team (Houston Dash) by an ACL tear in 2018.
In November 2020, Kristie received her first national team training camp invite in years, and made the most of it, securing a roster spot on the USWNT for her first major international tournament.
“For Kristie, she’s a product of the NWSL,” Andonovski said on Wednesday afternoon following the roster announcement. “She played extremely well in the league in the last year or so.”
The Tokyo Olympics will mark Sam Mewis’s second major international tournament (after making her World Cup debut in 2019) and first with “S. Mewis” on the back of her jersey. Sam ended 2020 by being named USWNT player of the year.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Tobin Heath, who is currently coming back from a knee injury, will be making her fourth Olympic appearance in Tokyo (tying a USWNT record held by Christie Pearce Rampone).
When healthy, Heath “provides something that no other woman on this roster provides: her flair, her creativity, and her soccer IQ,” Slaton explained earlier this month.
Don’t bet against Carli Lloyd. “It’s like betting against Tom Brady or LeBron James. You just don’t do it.” Slaton joked.
Lloyd is a prolific scorer, and certainly isn’t slowing down as she gets older.
In her Olympic debut in 2008, Lloyd scored the winning goal in the U.S. team’s 1-0 overtime victory against Brazil.
Four years later, she scored both goals in the U.S. team’s 2-1 win over Japan at the 2012 London Olympics.
Along with Heath, Lloyd will tie the record for most Olympic appearances by a USWNT player (4). She also leads the team in caps (304) by a huge margin. Sauerbrunn, the second most-capped player, has 186.
Lloyd, who turns 39 on July 16, will be the oldest player to represent the U.S. in women’s soccer at the Olympics.
Alex Morgan will be making her third Olympic appearance in Tokyo, and first as a mom. She gave birth to daughter Charlie in May 2020. In Tokyo, Morgan will become the fifth USWNT player to make an Olympic roster after giving birth.
While Morgan never ruled out trying to make the U.S. Olympic team before the Games were postponed, she was certainly aided by the one-year delay. Morgan returned to competition in fall 2020 (playing limited minutes for Tottenham). She has since returned to top form in her appearances with the USWNT and professionally with the Orlando Pride.
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The Tokyo Games will mark Christen Press’s second Olympic appearance. She will enter the Games with 147 caps (sixth most on this year’s Olympic roster).
The Tokyo Games will mark Rapinoe’s third Olympic appearance. At the 2016 Rio Games, she was coming back from an ACL tear and wasn’t in top form. She proved her resilience at the 2019 World Cup, where in addition to leading the U.S. to its fourth World Cup title in history, she also won the Golden Boot (most goals scored) and Golden Ball (best player) awards.
“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,” Slaton explained.
The USWNT will travel to Japan with four alternates: goalkeeper Jane Campbell, defender Casey Krueger, midfielder Catarina Macario and forward Lynn Williams.
One of the biggest surprises is Margaret “Midge” Purce not being included as an alternate. While Purce wasn’t considered a lock to make the 18-player roster, her versatility as both a forward and defender makes her exclusion perplexing.
This story will continue to be updated.
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC