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Four key points on the USWNT’s World Cup qualifying roster

USWNT XI by Mark Konezny USA TODAY
Photo by Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports


U.S. Soccer officially announced Monday the U.S. Women’s National Team roster for World Cup qualifying this month – but thanks to a previous leak, there were few surprises.

When the USWNT opens its qualifying against Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 15, it will have a full strength squad of mainstays Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and others.

Extra additions revealed Monday include third-string goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who will travel with the USWNT for the tournament, despite not being included on the official 20-player roster. Kristie Mewis and Julie Johnston – two players who both who have been shuffling between the back line and the midfield – will participate in camp but not stay with the team through the tournament.

Coach Jill Ellis spoke to the media Monday to explain her roster decisions, such as Wambach’s role as the players around her get younger, and Solo’s inclusion as she awaits an upcoming criminal trial.

See the full roster again below, plus four key takeaways about Ellis’ selections:


GOALKEEPERS (2): Hope Solo, Ashlyn Harris

DEFENDERS (7): Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, Whitney Engen, Ali Krieger, Meghan Klingenberg, Kelley O’Hara, Crystal Dunn

MIDFIELDERS (6): Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Heather O’Reilly, Morgan Brian

FORWARDS (5): Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Sydney Leroux, Amy Rodriguez


In years past, Wambach was the player expected to get forward and be on the end of a final pass or cross. But at 34 years old in a new three-front system that Ellis has implemented, the question has been whether continuing Wambach in the same role would hold back the USWNT. Wambach will still play a big role for the USWNT, Ellis said, but the forward will now be tasked with setting up her teammates more.

“We definitely want to have a player we can play off of,” Ellis said when asked about Wambach’s role on the team. “We’re basically asking Abby to be a little bit more of a player we can bounce balls off of and really have the focus on her ability to hold the ball for us, allow players to get underneath her a little bit and play with a bit more width. “


The USWNT has never been short on goalscoring talent, but Press is the kind of player that forced U.S. Soccer to take notice with her finishing as a target forward. After setting Stanford University’s all-time scoring record, she eventually ended up in Sweden, where last year she was the top-scorer in the top-tier Damallsvenskan.

But it’s likely Press will continue playing in a wider role for the USWNT. Ellis said that her goal is to see Press in the 18-yard box and involved in the attack, even from a winger position.

“She’s a player that has a great flexibility,” Ellis said. “She can play wide, she can play central, she can make runs in behind (defenses). She’s very versatile, very talented and obviously scores goals.”


When SBI looked at the group Ellis might call in, Brian was the only lingering question. She is the only player in the USWNT’s pool that is still in college and, under youth-focused former coach Tom Sermanni, Brian seemed primed to become a starting presence in the central midfield. But speaking to reporters Monday, Ellis made it clear she also sees Brian as being ready for the USWNT’s level.

Brian is naturally an attacking midfielder, but Ellis said Brian is being asked to fill a defensive midfielder role. Lauren Holiday seems to be the starter in what Ellis calls the USWNT’s No. 6 spot, but Brian has shown she has the versatility to help there, too.

“I see her as an important piece for qualifying,” Ellis said, adding that she expects to play Brian during qualifiers as Holiday’s backup. “She’s had a tremendous career at this level.”


The situation surrounding Hope Solo has been an unusual one, to be sure. In June, when she was arrested for allegedly assaulting her nephew and half-sister, the issue barely registered a ripple outside of soccer media. Mainstream media only recently turned their focus to Solo, and Solo’s friend and teammate Jill Loyden joined the side of critics Monday, announcing her retirement in an op-ed for USA Today as she called for Solo to be benched.

Asked about Solo’s place on the roster, Ellis said that, after much deliberation, U.S. Soccer is standing by its initial decision to let the legal process play out. Solo’s trial is scheduled for Nov. 4.

“I have had a lot of thought and a lot of discussions within U.S. Soccer, and we certainly acknowledge that these are very serious issues,” Ellis said. “But after careful thought and consideration, we determined to stand by our decision to let this legal process to play out and to have Hope remain with the team.”


What do you think of Ellis’ roster decisions? What do you make of Naeher, Mewis and Johnston earning unofficial call-ups? Do you like Ellis’ vision for Wambach and other players?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. It would look lik,e to a lot of people, that having a off-roster 3rd backup goalkeeper, the team is being prepared in the not-likely scenario that Hope Solo has to be excused from the team over her legal issues.

    • No. The Hope Solo issue is a sibling argument gone wrong. If Ray Rice decked his brother in the elevator he would be playing in the NFL today. We don’t need to confuse true domestic violence with what happened for Solo. Personally I think she is scum, I just don’t think what happened with her is a serious issue.

  2. So the question for me is: Is Abby Wambach’s new support role a role that she is the best person for as opposed to some other player, or is the team just trying to find something for Abby to do in order to have an excuse to keep her? I am a HUGE fan of Abby but I think she should only be on the team if she beats out her competition fair and square in an open competition devoid of sentiment.

  3. The roster looks solid. I’m happy to hear Johnston will be practicing with team. I think there is definitely a place for her come the WC. Excited to see who JE comes out with for her starting XI, but I’m sure there will be no surprises.

    Wambach certainly still has a role on the team, but it is no longer target forward. Her chemistry with Morgan is undeniable and will continue to give teams major frets.

    I also hope that Harris gets some games. They will certainly need her more experienced if Solo is found guilty. I hope it isn’t the case and she is truly innocent, but just in case, you need your now #2 to have game experience.

  4. I have no qualms with the roster decisions this time. So many players to choose from, someone was going to be left out. I also like that the 3 players that didn’t make the roster are still staying with the team, at least temporarily, a player can never get too much team experience.

    I am pleasantly surprised that Ellis has defined Wambach’s role with the team, I hope that will quiet some of the noise about retiring now. I do think she has the ability to hold up play and combine with the other forwards and still maintain her threat in the air. I’ll be very curious to see exactly which lineups Ellis starts during qualifying, she still has great flexibility there.


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