USA 2023 Women's World Cup roster breakdown: The stars, starters, snubs, and main USWNT storylines

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Sophia Smith USA vs England
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The United States will carry the honor of two-time reigning champion into the FIFA Women’s World Cup when it opens on July 20. Many of the players who made that happen are no longer with the team. Several who still are part of the program are fighting injuries and either will miss the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup or are fighting to be in the best possible condition in time.

In their three decades of dominating the biggest women's soccer competitions, the USWNT never have faced an injury crisis like this.

The USWNT have three young world-class attacking players in their pool, but two will miss the tournament with major injuries. The most recent, a torn patellar tendon, will keep Mallory Swanson out of the World Cup after she had been the team's best player to start 2023, scoring in the first five games of the year. Catarina Macario tore her ACL in spring 2022 and ruled herself out of the World Cup after she was unable to appear either for her club or the national team for the subsequent year.

Other important team members also have been affected by injury: midfielder Sam Mewis (knee), central defender Abby Dahlkemper (back issue in 2022), forward Christen Press (ACL), and versatile defender Tierna Davidson, who recovered from a knee injury to return to her club, but not at the level to force her way onto the USWNT roster. That was surprising given that veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn will miss the World Cup with a foot injury that hasn't healed as hoped.

The Women’s World Cup will be contested in Australia and New Zealand from July 20-Aug. 20, with 32 nations competing for the first time. The USWNT was drawn into a group with Vietnam, Portugal and the Netherlands, which was the runner-up in the 2019 tournament.

If the Americans win their group, they will be well positioned to make an advance on the final; such established powers as No. 6 Canada, No. 5 France, No. 4 England and No. 2 Germany would all be in the opposite half of the bracket if they win their respective groups.

MORE: Projecting the USWNT's starting lineup at the 2023 World Cup

Date Time (ET) Match Location
Fri, July 21 21:00 USA vs. Vietnam Eden Park, Auckland, NZ
Wed, July 26 21:00 USA vs. Netherlands  Wellington Regional Stadium, NZ
Tue, Aug. 1 03:00 USA vs. Portugal Eden Park, Auckland, NZ

USA 2023 Women's World Cup roster

Each World Cup squad is permitted a roster of 23 players, and what could have been an agonizing series of decisions for for head coach Vlatko Andonovski became less daunting given the number of injury-related absences.

Andonovski said it still was brutal to make the telephone calls necessary to inform 16 different players they will not be on that plane. 

These are the players joining that very long flight to Australia and New Zealand:

Player Pos Age Caps Goals
Alyssa Naeher GK 34 90 0
Casey Murphy GK 26 14 0
Aubrey Kingsbury GK 31 1 0
Crystal Dunn DEF 30 130 24
Emily Sonnett DEF 29 74 1
Naomi Girma DEF 22 15 0
Emily Fox DEF 24 28 0
Sofia Huerta DEF 30 29 0
Alana Cook DEF 25 24 0
Kelley O'Hara DEF 34 157 3
Rose Lavelle MID 27 88 24
Lindsey Horan MID 28 128 26
Andi Sullivan MID 27 44 3
Ashley Sanchez MID 23 24 3
Julie Ertz MID 31 118 20
Savannah DeMelo  MID 25 0 0
Kristie Mewis MID 32 51 7
Lynn Williams FWD 30 52 15
Alex Morgan FWD 33 206 121
Trinity Rodman FWD 20 17 2
Sophia Smith FWD 22 29 12
Alyssa Thompson FWD 18 3 0
Megan Rapinoe FWD 37 199 63

USA projected starting lineup at 2023 Women's World Cup

The easiest position to project is central defense, because Andonovski needs two players there and only brought two. So Alana Cook and Naomi Girma have great job security.

Presuming everyone else is healthy and in peak form — that means specifically midfielder Rose Lavelle, the team's best offensive creator — this is what the lineup in front of those two should look like.

USA (4-3-3, right to left): Alyssa Naeher (GK) — Emily Fox, Naomi Girma, Alana Cook, Crystal Dunn — Rose Lavelle, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan — Sophia Smith, Alex Morgan, Trinity Rodman.

There are a few places that likely will rotate throughout the tournament. Lavelle might not start the opening game if she still is recovering from her injury, because the big group game will be against the Netherlands on the third matchday.

MORE: Complete 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup schedule

USA 2023 World Cup roster breakdown


The USWNT spent most of 2022 learning to play without Catarina Macario due to a torn ACL. She was set to return to club action in March but it never happened, and she ruled herself out of the World Cup.

Her absence has meant a lot of playing time for legendary striker Alex Morgan, who celebrated her 200th appearance as a U.S.national team member in the opening SheBelieves Cup victory over rival Canada in February 2023.

Although Morgan has lost a step in front of goal, she continues to play at an elite level and she has become elite at hold-up play. Andonovski's problems are too significant to afford messing with such a consistent player.

He will have to decide on Swanson's replacement in the starting lineup. It looks as though rising star Trinity Rodman will grab this spot, bringing far less experience than Swanson but possibly no less talent.

MORE: The latest on Catarina Macario's recovery from a torn ACL


No outstanding replacement has emerged for Julie Ertz, so relying on her makes a lot of sense. In her two appearances in April against Ireland, there was a clear difference in the play of Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle in front of her. Ertz’s stability in front of the defense energized those two and allowed them to punish opposing defenses.

With the U.S. taking only two full-time central defenders to Oceania, though, Ertz also might be on call to fill in, having excelled at the position in the 2015 World Cup.  

Andi Sullivan has been fine as a holding midfielder. Not terrible, not great, just fine. However, that limited the effectiveness of the players in front of her, and it led to Vlatko Andonovski experimenting with a less daring midfield approach, using two midfielders to play box-to-box — as No. 8s, in soccer jargon — and put less pressure on a single defensive midfielder.

That’s one of many reasons the U.S. attack has been less dangerous than is ideal, as Horan and Lavelle excel with freedom of movement, which only comes with the ability to trust those behind them.

There is concern now that Lavelle's knee injury might not heal in time for her to excel in the World Cup. The US has no obvious replacement for her, although the job probably would fall to Ashley Sanchez. It would be a huge opportunity for her — with huge pressure to perform.

The depth is not exceptional. Kristie Mewis has been there to consume minutes, not to change games. Savannah DeMelo has not yet received her first senior cap; it's the first time since 2003 someone in that situation earned a World Cup roster spot for the USWNT. If Andonovski thought she was worthy of being on this team, why didn't she get more than a training-camp look last autumn?


World Cup winner Crystal Dunn had a baby recently, but has had time to recover and returned to soccer last fall. She has been exceptional performing in attack for the Portland Thorns and looks to be back to the form that made her such a dynamic part of the 2019 squad — one of the most important players in winning that tournament.

Through the early portion of the NWSL season, she has scored five goals. The only way she won't be the starting left-back is if head coach Vlatko Andonovski decides he needs her to complement the attack, given all the injuries and the shaky status of Lavelle. Andonovski could use Emily Fox at left-back (her more natural side) if necessary, or could start Fox on the right, which he did in this year's early games. 

If Fox does not start on the right side, that position likely will be filled by Sofia Huerta, who is relatively new to the team despite being on the wrong side of 30, or Kelley O'Hara, who is one of the team's established veterans.

In central defense the debate had been whether Sauerbrunn's partner would be Naomi Girma or Alana Cook. Now with Sauerbrunn out, the issue is whether those two can stay healthy and perform. They're the only ones on the roster who play the position.

Cook and Girma are very talented, but Girma is younger and appeared to be a game-breaking defender in last summer’s competitions.


Vlatko Andonovski has the luxury of continuing to use Alyssa Naeher, who posted three shutouts at the 2019 World Cup, or switching to Casey Murphy, who is younger and has shown the ability to be an exceptional shot-stopper. 

There may be an answer that is more right, but perhaps not a wrong one.

As recently as the 2021 Olympics, Naeher saved a penalty kick in the quarterfinal game against the Netherlands. As recently as the February 2023 SheBelieves Cup, Murphy made two ridiculous saves to help preserve a 1-0 victory over Japan.

As of now, it appears Naeher is the clear No. 1 goalkeeper, but Andonovski has made it a very public point to give Murphy significant minutes. The U.S. head man clearly values his backup remaining sharp, and that could prove valuable should there be an issue at the position.

USWNT players who missed the cut

For so many, presence on the cut list is the result of injury. It’s been a rough last couple years for the USWNT, and that’s without discussing the failed 2022 trip to Europe (losses to England, Spain, and Germany). It’s mostly about the injuries and absences that have toyed with the squad since the USWNT earned a bronze medal at the Olympics in the summer of 2021.

Now, some of these players will be on the alternates list in case anyone is injured and needs to be replaced in advance of the tournament.

BONN: Biggest USWNT World Cup roster snubs

Player Pos Age Caps Goals
Tierna Davidson DEF 24 49 1
Casey Krueger DEF 32 39 0
Taylor Kornieck MF 24 12 2
Jaelin Howell MF 23 5 1
Sam Coffey MF 24 4 0
Jaedyn Shaw FWD 19 0 0
Midge Purce FWD 27 23 4
Ashley Hatch FWD 28 19 5

USWNT storylines heading into 2023 Women's World Cup

Midfield muttering

The overwhelming midfield that once seemed possible as Lavelle and Horan developed into their late 20s has not come to fruition. Each has produced moments of brilliance, but the control of the game has not been there. There were issues in the European games at England and Spain last fall, and again when the the USWNT faced Germany in the States.

Missing Swanson

There should be fewer complaints about the forward line, but perhaps greater concern.

The attack was dominated by Sophia Smith in 2022 and, as she missed time with an injury, Swanson’s reinvention as an attacking force was a strength of the team. The impact of losing Swanson now cannot be overstated.

Defensive gamble

The defense has several good, young options that should freshen the lineup in this cycle and the next. But now they're really young, without the massive experience Sauerbrunn provided.

It is almost shocking Andonovski chose only Girma and Cook; if either struggles or is injured, it could be decisive for the USWNT.

More than anything, the Americans need for their roster to become as healthy and prepared as possible. That may not be enough to repair the midfield problems, but at least would give the team its best chance to succeed. 

Mike DeCourcy Photo

Mike DeCourcy is a Senior Writer at The Sporting News