Who Will Make the Final 18? Previewing the USWNT Olympic Roster Reveal

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski is expected to release the final 18-player roster for the Tokyo Olympics in the coming days.

By Alex Holmes

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The USWNT added three more wins to its unblemished 2021 record that served as a final casting call before head coach Vlatko Andonovski names the 18-player Olympic roster in the next few days.

In the last two weeks, Andonovski’s side defeated Portugal, Jamaica, and Nigeria in a trio of games played in Texas. While a majority of the Olympic roster is presumably set, Andonovski may have left us a few hints at who he plans on including on the final roster. Here is what we can expect from the USWNT roster reveal, as well as the outlook surrounding the players on the bubble of making the squad. 

One certainty is the formation that the USWNT will use at the Olympics. Since the lead up to the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the team has used a 4-3-3 formation and Andonovski has yet to change this tactic nearly two years into his tenure. If the last three tune-up games are an indicator, this formation will be used in Tokyo as well.

While there are several names on the bubble, a majority of the roster will not come as a surprise. Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Christen Press, Carli Lloyd, Tierna Davidson, Alyssa Naeher, and Megan Rapinoe are all but locks to make the Olympic squad.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski has to decide the 18-player roster and select four alternates for the Tokyo Olympics. (Source: Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz are coming off injuries, but the coaching staff has expressed optimism that both will be ready in July.

It is also a safe bet to assume the USWNT will take two goalkeepers, and Naeher is sure to be the No. 1 in Tokyo. While there is usually less suspense when it comes to selecting goalkeepers, it gets a little complicated when you think about who might be the back-up to Naeher.

Ashlyn Harris has been the consistent back-up since the last Olympics, but she has not been called up to the team since January. Jane Campbell seemed poised to go in Harris’ absence, but Adrianna Franch got the start in the June 13 match against Jamaica. Franch is also having a tremendous NWSL campaign, which might give her a boost when the USWNT coaching staff deliberates on final decisions.

Until Andonovski releases the roster, uncertainty will surround Kristie Mewis, Midge Purce, Catarina Macario, Sophia Smith, Lynn Williams, and Alana Cook more than the other players already mentioned. Deciding which players to keep is a great problem to have, but unfortunately all six of these players won’t make the final 18.

Although Catarina Macario has seen limited action with the USWNT, she might grab one of the last spots on the roster for a few reasons. First, she is arguably the most promising youth on the roster. She now has one season of professional experience under her belt after finishing her rookie campaign with European powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais. It seemed like she found her footing in the French top flight toward the end of the season and that momentum should bode well for her as she continues to integrate into a veteran-heavy USWNT. Second, Macario waited her turn to play with the U.S. She wasn’t even eligible to compete in official matches with the team until January of this year. It’s hard to picture the coaching staff not taking Macario after she chose U.S. Soccer over Brazil. Her long wait could be rewarded with a chance to compete for Olympic gold in her first year with the senior team.

Catarina Macario plays for the French club Olympique Lyonnais and has a promising future with the USWNT. (Source: @USWNT, Twitter)

Kristie Mewis has made a name for herself since bursting onto the USWNT scene last fall. Since November 2020, Mewis has appeared at every camp  with the team and put in solid minutes as both a starter and a substitute. Andonovski has chosen her time and time again so it should be interesting to see what he decides when it comes to the final selection.

Midge Purce’s greatest strength is her versatility. She could play on all three lines and do extraordinarily well. Exciting things happen when Purce touches the ball. She can drive at defenders, run around opposing backlines, and close down attacking players. If Purce doesn’t make the final 18, she is all but guaranteed a spot as an alternate. Regardless of whether she gets playing time in Tokyo, Purce is one of the future faces of this team and we will definitely see more of her in the coming years.

Sophia Smith and Lynn Williams are in tough positions heading into the roster reveal, mainly because the team already has a loaded and proven attacking front line. Williams scored herself a goal against Nigeria, but it may not be enough to make Andonovski write her name among the final 18 players. Smith also had flashes of brilliance over the last few months, but her chance at Olympic gold may have to wait.

Alana Cook might just miss out on traveling with the team because she hasn’t had enough call-ups leading up to the Olympics. That would be a real shame too, because Cook is a solid defender with a bright future. One can hope she makes the team as an alternate, but fans can expect to hear her name called up over the next few World Cup and Olympic cycles.

Here is a look at She Plays’ roster prediction by position. Potential alternates are listed below.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Alyssa Naeher, Adrianna Franch

DEFENDERS (6): Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O’Hara, Tierna Davidson, Emily Sonnett

MIDFIELDERS (5): Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis, Catarina Macario

FORWARDS (5): Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd

ALTERNATES (4): Kristie Mewis, Midge Purce, Lynn Williams, Jane Campbell

The USWNT will be back in action in early July for a pair of send-off games against Mexico. On July 1, the CONCACAF rivals will square off in Connecticut at 7 P.M. ET on FS1. Just four days later on July 5, the U.S. will play its final game at 5 P.M. ET on ESPN before heading to Tokyo later in the week.

The USWNT begin the quest for Olympic gold on July 21 against Sweden (4:30 P.M. ET). The second group stage game will be on July 24 at 7:30 P.M ET against New Zealand. The final group stage match will be played against Australia on July 27 at 4 P.M. ET. The knockout phase of the Olympic soccer tournament will begin on July 30.

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