The U.S. women’s national team was already considered the heavy favorite to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics soccer tournament, but a roster rule change approved on Friday has made the reigning world champions even stronger.
The International Olympic Committee officially announced on Friday that squads for the summer games in Tokyo, Japan can now be comprised of 22 players instead of the usual 18. That means that the four alternates that were selected by every nation can now dress and play in games in the tournament, though the matchday rosters will remain at 18 players.
The rule change has cleared the way for Lyon midfielder Catarina Macario, North Carolina Courage forward Lynn Williams, Chicago Red Stars defender Casey Krueger, and Houston Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell to now be part of the full active roster.
The quartet joins the initial 18-player team that includes star players like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Christen Press.
Teams will still be required to select 18 players to be active and in uniform for each match, but the rule change means those players who were previously categorized as alternates are available to be selected. Before the rule change, alternates could only become an active member of the full roster as an injury replacement.
The USWNT is looking to claim Olympic gold this summer after failing to do so in 2016 in Brazil. The Americans reached the quarterfinals in that competition, but were eliminated by Sweden in that round via penalty kicks.
Sweden will be the very opponent the USWNT opens its Tokyo campaign against, as the two nations square off again in a Group G encounter on July 21. The Americans then face New Zealand three days later before wrapping up group-stage play vs. Australia on July 27.