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Ertz, Morgan, Rapinoe lead U.S. WWC squad

United States coach Vlatko Andonovski named his 23-player squad on Wednesday for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, with Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe both picked to the team for the fourth time in their careers and 14 players making their World Cup debuts.

Veteran Julie Ertz also made the cut after returning from an injury in April after a long spell away from the game, while Alyssa Thompson, her Angel City FC teammate and NWSL No. 1 pick in 2023, was also included for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, which kicks off on July 20.

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The players were introduced with a star-studded social media post that included President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Taylor Swift, Lil Wayne and Megan Thee Stallion.

Rapinoe is the oldest player on the roster at 37. She will turn 38 on July 5.

Andonovski stressed the importance of Rapinoe’s leadership.

“Megan Rapinoe is probably going to have a different role than last World Cup or previous two World Cups,” he told reporters Wednesday. “She is going to have different types of minutes, but her leadership role is so important and her performance on field is very valuable for us. She is expected to have minutes in sendoff game.”

Asked about joining Rapinoe for their fourth World Cup together, Morgan said: “I am as excited as I was for my first World Cup.

“I am hoping to make the biggest impact for this team on and off the field. I want to show younger players who have not been in a major tournament what to expect. I have already talked to some of the other experienced players [like Rapinoe] about how to rally these players and how we can all come together and be incredibly fluid as we go through this World Cup.”

Bidens, Taylor Swift, Megan Thee Stallion reveal USWNT roster

Thompson is the youngest player on the roster at 18. She is the fourth teenager and second-youngest player ever to be named to a U.S. World Cup roster behind only current USWNT assistant coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak.

The two-time defending champion Americans will be without captain and veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who was left out of the squad because of a foot injury she suffered in April.

Sauerbrunn, who won two World Cups with the USWNT, confirmed in a statement that she will not recover in time from her injury and will miss the tournament. She is one of several injured American players to miss the tournament, including striker Mallory Swanson, who went down with a knee injury in April.

Andonovski said he will not yet name a new captain.

“Becky will always be our captain; that is how everybody feels,” he said. “Unfortunately, she will not be able to be with us, and we haven’t yet talked to team leaders. And I would want to talk to them and announce to team before I make it public.”

Midfield stalwarts Sam Mewis and Catarina Macario are also sidelined.

“The task of selecting a World Cup team is never easy, but I’m proud of the players for their work ethic and focus during the process and of our coaching staff for doing the work to put together the best team possible,” Andonovski said. “It’s the players that make the biggest impact on our environment; they push each other to be better, and I know as a group they are extremely motivated to make our country proud at the World Cup.

2023 Women’s World Cup: Rosters, players for all 32 teams

“Every player has a different journey to get to this point, so our roster has some amazing stories, and we have a really good mix of veterans and younger players.”

The U.S. will face the Netherlands, Vietnam and Portugal in Group E play, with all of its matches taking place in New Zealand. The 2023 edition of the Women’s World Cup will be the first to include 32 teams, up from 24 in the previous two, both of which were won by the U.S.

Final rosters are due July 9, and Andonovski said he would make no announcements prior to that date about alternates.

“In terms of alternative, we are not going to have any public announcements,” he said. “But we do have names in place in case something happens in next 30-35 days.”

Andonovski singled out Thompson’s journey to this World Cup team spot.

“What a turn of events in last nine months,” he said. “In October, she was playing youth soccer, and now in July she will be on biggest stage of soccer in general.

“Looking back, we had been following Alyssa since U20 World Cup. For us, Alyssa is a great player with some exceptional skills and abilities, and we think she is going to be important for us at this World Cup.”

Full U.S. Women’s National Team roster by position (club; caps/goals):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Kingsbury* (Washington Spirit; 1), Casey Murphy* (North Carolina Courage; 14), Alyssa Naeher*** (Chicago Red Stars; 90)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook* (OL Reign; 24/1), Crystal Dunn** (Portland Thorns FC; 131/24), Emily Fox* (North Carolina Courage; 28/1), Naomi Girma* (San Diego Wave FC; 15/0), Sofia Huerta* (OL Reign; 29/0), Kelley O’Hara**** (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 157/3), Emily Sonnett** (OL Reign; 74/1)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Savannah DeMelo* (Racing Louisville FC; 0/0), Julie Ertz*** (Angel City FC; 118/20), Lindsey Horan** (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 128/27), Rose Lavelle** (OL Reign; 88/24), Kristie Mewis* (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 51/7), Ashley Sanchez* (Washington Spirit; 24/3), Andi Sullivan* (Washington Spirit; 44/3)

FORWARDS (6): Alex Morgan**** (San Diego Wave FC; 206/121), Megan Rapinoe**** (OL Reign; 199/63), Trinity Rodman* (Washington Spirit; 17/2), Sophia Smith* (Portland Thorns FC; 29/12), Alyssa Thompson* (Angel City FC; 3/0), Lynn Williams* (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 52/15)

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