by Eric Fulton
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off early Thursday morning (our time) in Australia and New Zealand. For the next month, the best national women’s soccer teams will compete to see who the best in the world is. The United States Women’s Team has been the most successful women’s international team in the World Cup, winning four titles, including the previous World Cup in 2019. However, coming into this year’s World Cup, they will go through some adversity with a couple of key players not available for the entire tournament due to injuries and a new head coach taking over the team.
Players Becky Sauerbrunn and Mallory Swanson will not participate in the World Cup due to injuries. While both players will be sorely missed on the team, they will have a new voice as former FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski takes over the head coaching duties. With a lot going on, the focus is to win, and they still have what it takes to extend their record by winning a fifth World Cup.
Here are five players everyone should focus on during the U.S. run toward that fifth World Cup.
5. Alyssa Naeher – Goalkeeper
Alyssa Naeher is the most experienced goalkeeper on the roster. She has made 91 appearances for Team USA with 53 clean sheets. Naeher ranks third all-time in caps, wins and shutouts for a goalkeeper in U.S. history. Her shutout in the CONCACAF final helped the United States clinch this year’s World Cup appearance and the Summer Olympics in 2024.
4. Crystal Dunn – Defender
Crystal Dunn has made 132 appearances, scoring 24 goals and 19 assists in international play. Dunn is also a two-time Olympian. In the last World Cup in 2019, Dunn played a key role in defense against host country France shutting down France’s attack and helping the U.S. win that match. Dunn started all six matches in 2019, scoring one assist in the tournament.
3. Rose Lavelle – Midfielder
Lavelle has made 88 appearances, scoring 24 goals and 20 assists in international play. In 2021 and 2022, Lavelle played 38 matches for the United States, scoring nine goals and 11 assists, while playing 2,518 minutes. In the 2019 World Cup, Lavelle won the Bronze Ball as the third-best player in the tournament. She scored the clinching goal in the 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in World Cup Final.
2. Alex Morgan – Forward
Making her fourth World Cup appearance, Alex Morgan is one of the best women’s soccer players of all time. Last year, Morgan became just the 13th player in USWNT history to reach 200 matches played. She is also a two-time United States Female Soccer Athlete of the Year, a four-time CONCACAF Player of the Year, and a three-time Olympian. Her performance in the 2019 World Cup was one of the greatest of all time. She scored six goals and added three assists in France. Five of her six goals came in one game alone against Thailand, which tied a single-game record for the United States. Morgan will look to continue to add to her 121 goals and 49 assists in Australia and New Zealand.
1. Megan Rapinoe – Forward
Rapinoe announced recently that this year will be her final World Cup as she plans to retire at the end of the year. You know she would love to finish her career in a blaze of glory. Rapinoe is one appearance away from reaching the 200 matches played milestone. She has scored 63 goals and 73 assists in her international career, both rank in the top 10 in USWNT history. Her play in the 2019 World Cup was memorable and unforgettable. She won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot as the most outstanding player in the World Cup with her six goals and three assists. She scored a penalty kick goal in the World Cup Final, which was her 50th career goal. Rapinoe has even made a tremendous impact off the soccer field, advocating that her teammates and women’s soccer, in general, should have equal pay to men’s soccer. The two-time World Cup champion received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2022.
The United States Women’s National Team will be in group E of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Teams in Group E include Vietnam, Netherlands and Portugal. The United States and the Netherlands played in the final in 2019, with the U.S. winning the match 2-0. The USWNT’s first game will be against Vietnam on Friday, July 21 at 8 pm Central time and can be seen in the U.S. on Fox. The championship match will be on Sunday, August 20 on Fox.