Fourteen Fresh Faces: Get to know your USWNT World Cup roster first-timers
Updated: Jun 28
The USWNT roster dropped last week, with head coach Vlatko Andonovski selecting 23 of the best players in the country to head off to the World Cup in less than a month. Over half of the squad is going to their first World Cup, with fourteen players set to experience this tournament for the first time. Here are the all newbies on the squad and how they ended up earning their spot on the coveted final roster.
At thirty years old with her first cap in 2016, it’s surprising that this will be William’s first time headed to the World Cup. Williams earned a handful of call-ups between 2016 and 2018 but ended up missing out on the 2019 World Cup roster. She’s discussed on SNACKS how she was so worried about making the 2019 roster that she felt she ended up sabotaging her own chances.
She was pulled back into the pool after the 2019 World Cup, earning significant minutes under Andonovski. Williams made the Olympic roster, making her Olympic debut, and scoring a goal in the quarter-finals. Unfortunately, she tore her hamstring back in April of 2022 and ended up missing the entire 2022 season, only returning to play in January of this year. Undoubtedly one of the most talented forwards around, Williams has been on fire for club and country since coming back from injury and that trend is sure to continue in Australia and New Zealand.
Mewis has one of the most inspiring stories to date, making her first World Cup roster at thirty-two years old. Well-known as the older sister of previous World Cup champion Sam Mewis, Kristie has been waiting for this World Cup call-up for a long time. Mewis has been on the National team's radar for over ten years, making her debut for the USWNT in January of 2013. But she fell off the roster in 2015 and then tore her ACL while playing for the Houston Dash in 2018. After recovering in 2019, she earned a call-up from Andonovski in December of 2019 to an identification camp at the start of the year and has been consistently part of the roster ever since. She scored her second international goal in November of 2020, making her the player with the longest time in between national team goals ever, with a total of 2,722 days since her first goal in 2013. A steady and confident midfield presence, Mewis has been stellar for Gotham FC this season and will bring that talent to the USWNT midfield in her first World Cup.
One of four Washington Spirit players and one of five Stanford players on the roster, Andi Sullivan is finally headed to her first World Cup. Sullivan earned her first call-up in 2016 but tore her ACL later that year and missed most of 2016 in recovery. She returned to the national team in 2017 but didn’t earn consistent minutes under Jill Ellis, missing out on the 2019 World Cup.
Since then, Sullivan has been building a legacy with the Washington Spirit, leading them to their first NWSL title as captain in 2021. She was the number one pick for the Spirit in 2018 and has proved her worth for them time and time again. A tremendous leader on and off the field, Sullivan is well known to national team fans as a consistent starter in the number six role, putting in significant defensive work for the States. She’s been part of Andonovski’s favorite starting midfield trio and is likely to earn significant minutes in her first World Cup as the USWNT’s number-six midfielder.
Another Washington Spirit midfielder, Ashley Sanchez is traveling to her first World Cup this summer. Well-known for her incredible playmaking, Sanchez has started in all twelve regulars season matches for the Spirit this season and scored three goals, already matching the number she had last season. Getting her first call-up in 2017 but not really featuring for the United States until 2021, Sanchez shows lots of creativity on the ball and can find space anywhere on the field. Often coming in as a second-half substitute, Sanchez will be best featured this summer slipping balls through defenders to move things forward. With twenty-four caps, Sanchez has already scored three times and had two assists for the USWNT, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see those numbers go up in July and August.
After being the consistent number two keeper for the past couple of years, Casey Murphy of the North Carolina Courage will be looking to lock down her spot in goal at her first World Cup. Murphy has been called up by Andonovski since 2021, making her debut for the senior national team in November of 2021 in a friendly against Australia. She’s been splitting time in goal with veteran keeper Alyssa Naeher, with both players earning eleven starts in the net since 2022 leading up to the roster drop. Murphy has been a strong presence, keeping ten clean sheets within her total fourteen appearances for the national team. In major tournaments, there is usually just one starting keeper for every match. In 2019, Naeher played every World Cup game for the States. But Andonovksi has been known to rotate his keepers and Murphy has a good shot at making her World Cup debut this summer.
With just one cap, Kingsbury clinched the third goalkeeper spot on her first World Cup roster. Kingsbury has been called up intermittently for the last couple of years, coming into her first camp in 2019. But she wouldn’t debut for the national team until 2022, keeping a clean sheet in a friendly against Uzbekistan. Kingsbury had to battle it out with several other keepers in the pool for her spot, with her goalkeeping play for the Spirit undoubtedly helping her onto the roster. She’s started every match for the club this year and kept three clean sheets along with making some incredible saves. It’s too early to tell if Kingsbury will get minutes in this tournament, but she’s a great player to have on your team and a quality keeper.
Anyone who’s been keeping up with women’s soccer this year is aware of the accolades and incredible talent of Sophia Smith. After scoring 14 goals in regular season play last year for the NWSL, Smith was named 2022 MVP for the NWSL and MVP for the championship match in which she helped the Thorns nab their third title.
She’s the youngest NWSL MVP ever at 22. For her country, she led the USWNT in goals in 2022, scoring 11 in 17 appearances and earning U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year. A consistent starter in the frontline, Smith’s presence equates to success for this team. Smith left Stanford early to join the Thorns, going number one in the draft back in 2020 and the gamble has surely paid off as she gets ready to take on her first World Cup.
A quieter but nonetheless important presence on the USWNT, Emily Fox is going to her first World Cup as a critical piece of Andonovski’s backline. Recently acquired by the North Carolina Courage from Racing Louisville, Fox has been a marathon runner for the USWNT, putting in an impressive amount of minutes. She was the only player to go all 270 minutes of the 2023 SheBelieves Cup, helping the USWNT secure the tournament. Fox is familiar to newer and older fans, as the fullback got her first cap in 2018 before leaving for injury. She returned in 2021 and has been a stalwart call-up and starter for Andonovski ever since. It’s expected that Fox will put in a lot of minutes at her first World Cup this summer, and add onto her 28 caps.
The undeniable goal scorer of the Washington Spirit, twenty-one-year-old Trinity Rodman just booked her ticket to her first World Cup. Debuting in 2022 for the USWNT and unable to slow down since, Rodman has 17 appearances for the national team along with two goals and three assists in that time.
She’s been indispensable for her club team since she joined them in 2021 at eighteen years old, becoming the youngest player to be drafted at that time. So far in her forty-seven Spirit appearances, she’s scored seventeen times and became the youngest player to have an assist in an NWSL championship at nineteen years old in 2021. Rodman has been a substitute for the most part for Andonovski, but it’ll be interesting to see if she gets the start down under this summer within the youthful frontline.
The youngest player on the roster, and this year’s number one NWSL draft pick, Alyssa Thompson will be going to her first World Cup at just eighteen years old. It’s no wonder why after the young rookie scored just eleven minutes into her debut for Angel City this season. Thompson makes the roster with three caps, being called over to Europe in October 2022 to make her debut in Wembley against England in an international friendly. She wasn’t originally called into camp for the April friendlies against Ireland, but with the injury of Mallory Swanson, she was brought in as a replacement player to earn her first start and played the full ninety. With her impressive club play and relentless energy, she’s now on her way to the World Cup, adding another accolade to her already impressive rookie professional season.
Making a splash as a wildcard pick, Savannah DeMelo is the first uncapped player to make a World Cup roster since Shannon Boxx did so back in 2003. So how did the Racing Louisville midfielder break into arguably one of the most talented rosters in the world? DeMelo is no stranger to the national team, being called into camps back in the all of 2022, but has yet to back her debut for the team on the field. She’s been exceptional for Racing Louisville this year, scoring eight goals in all competitions so far and getting three assists. Her club play has paid off in the form of a roster spot as she joins the National team for the first time this year headed to the World Cup. In the post-roster press conference, Andonovski mentioned that DeMelo would be an important piece going forward, and it will be interesting to see her earn her first USWNT minutes at the biggest stage in the world.
OL Reign is sending five players to the World Cup with the USWNT, and Huerta is one of two making her first World Cup roster. The defender is highly effective at finding space behind backlines and crossing perfectly timed balls into the box. Huerta is another player who has been waiting on this call-up for a long time. She’s been in and out of national team camps since 2017, falling off the radar from 2018 to 2022.
After spending time with the Houston Dash hoping to get minutes with the national team, Huerta was picked up by the Reign in a trade that put her in the capable hands of Laura Harvey. The trade paid off as Huerta was called back into camp under Andonovski in 2022. Her time with the Reign has surely helped her to get noticed, earning sixteen appearances in 2022 as she locked down her spot as a national team winger. Uniquely, Huerta is the first female national team player ever to play both for and against the United States, after earning a cap for the Mexican national team in 2016 before transferring to the USWNT. At thirty years old, Huerta is finally going to her first World Cup for the United States.
The other Reign defender making their first World Cup roster and the fourth Stanford Cardinal on this list, Alana Cook is one-half of the USWNT’s young center-back pairing. Cook has just twenty-four caps with the national team and scored her first goal for the USWNT just this April in the friendly matches against Ireland. But defending is Cook’s bread and butter. As part of one of the strongest backlines in the NWSL, Cook pairs up most often with Naomi Girma for the national team to lock down the defense. She’s been called in consistently since 2019, earning her debut and all her caps under Andonovski. She tripled her caps in 2022, playing in fifteen matches and starting in twelve. For club and country Cook is a strong defender, often making clinical tackles and clearances in split-second decisions well beyond her years. Her determined presence will be well-valued on this young backline in her first World Cup.
The last Stanford Cardinal on the list, NWSL 2022 Rookie and Defender of the Year (the first player ever to earn both titles), Naomi Girma is headed to her first World Cup. A reliable presence on the San Diego Wave backline, Girma has been earning substantial minutes as a center back for the USWNT after getting her first cap in 2022.
With just fourteen appearances under her belt, fans can already tell that Girma is going to be around for the long haul. She’s one of the most intelligent players on the field, reading plays and stopping charges like a veteran. With a Sauerbrunn-sized hole in the defense, fans can have faith in Girma to help steady the youthful backline.