By Anne M. Peterson
Eighteen-year-old Alyssa Thompson was among the 23 players selected Wednesday for the United States team that will defend its title at the Women’s World Cup next month.
Thompson, who has been impressive this season as a rookie for Angel City in the National Women’s Soccer League, joins veterans Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe on the roster selected by coach Vlatko Andonovski.
“We want to do something that’s never been done before. We believe in the quality of the team and the support we have and we think we have what it takes to make it possible," Andonovski said about the opportunity to win a third straight World Cup title.
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.
Morgan, 33, and Rapinoe, 37, will be making their fourth World Cup appearances.
United States' Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan celebrate with the trophy after winning the Women's World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Defender Kelley O’Hara, 34, also earned a spot on her fourth World Cup squad as a veteran presence to shore up the backline in the absence of veteran defender and team captain Becky Sauerbrunn, who announced last week she won't play in the World Cup because of a lingering foot injury.
The tournament kicks off on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand. The Americans are in Group E with Vietnam, the Netherlands and Portugal. The United States opens with Vietnam on July 22 in Auckland.
The team has been hit by injuries in the run-up to the event. In addition to Sauerbrunn, the United States will be without forward Mallory Swanson, who tore the patella tendon in her left knee. Swanson had seven goals this year before she was hurt in an April exhibition match against Ireland.
Catarina Macario, a talented forward who tore her ACL last year while playing for her French club, Lyon, did not recover in time for a spot on the team. Midfielder Sam Mewis also has a lingering injury and wasn't available for the World Cup.
Some of the youngsters include 22-year-old Sophia Smith, who was named both the NWSL Most Valuable Player and the U.S. Soccer Player of the Year for 2022, and 21-year-old Trinity Rodman, U.S. Soccer's Young Player of the Year in 2021 and the daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman.
Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith (9) moves the ball against OL Reign defender Sam Hiatt during the first half of an NWSL soccer match, Saturday, June 3, 2023, in Seattle. The Thorns won 2-0. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Thompson is the second-youngest player ever named to a World Cup roster, behind U.S. assistant coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak, who played in the 1995 World Cup. Thompson was called onto the team in early April for a match against Ireland, taking the place of Swanson.
“Alyssa, what a turn of events in the last nine months. If you think about in October, she was playing youth soccer and now, in July, she will be at the biggest stage in women’s soccer," Andonovski said in a conference call with reporters.
Midfielder Julie Ertz, who was on the team that won the title in 2019, made the squad after returning to the team in April following a long layoff for the birth of her son.
A surprise inclusion on the roster was 25-year-old Savannah DeMelo, who has yet to appear in a match for the United States. DeMelo plays for Racing Louisville in the NWSL, and has scored in three of her last four matches. She has five total goals this season.
DeMelo is just the third U.S. player to be named to a World Cup squad without playing in an international level match.
“Her performance in the league was one of the biggest reasons why she's on the team,” Andonovski said. “And based on the needs that we have in terms of the opponents and different situations that we may face, we see Sav being very important to us going forward.”
Racing Louisville FC's Savannah DeMelo (7) in action during an NWSL soccer match, Friday, May 12, 2023, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
The roster by position with club affiliation:
Goalkeepers: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Gotham), Emily Sonnett (OL Reign).
Midfielders: Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC), Julie Ertz (Angel City), Lindsey Horan (Lyon), Rose Lavelle, (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (Gotham), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).
Forwards: Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Alyssa Thompson (Angel City), Lynn Williams (Gotham FC).