Jill Ellis and U.S. Soccer today released the 20 player roster that will represent the U.S. at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship next month Frisco and Houston, Texas.
The roster is a mix of newcomers and experience with 17-year-old Mallory Pugh leading the youth brigade. Pugh is not only the youngest player on the panel, the UCLA-bound forward is the youngest player ever named to a U.S. Olympic qualifying roster.
Left off the team were former longtime captain Christie Rampone and veteran winger Heather O’Reilly. 40-year-old Rampone has been hindered by injury since before the World Cup and has been overtaken at center back by Julie Johnston while Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn have assumed the captaincy.
Like Rampone O’Reilly was something of a peripheral figure at the World Cup and Ellis may have chosen Stephanie McCaffrey, a younger player with similar skills over the veteran.
Pugh, McCaffrey and the other newer players on the roster will have plenty of experienced players to turn to if the going gets tough, led by a trio of players looking to qualify for a third consecutive Olympic Games.
That troika, goalkeeper Hope Solo, FIFA Women’s Player of the Year Carli Lloyd and playmaking midfielder Tobin Heath will be among the leaders as the defending Champions look to qualify for the Olympics for the sixth straight time.
In a statement released by U.S. Soccer Ellis conceded,“this was an exceptionally challenging roster to select. The players all worked and competed very hard in the January camp and that made the final decisions extremely difficult.”
Ellis provided a window into her selection process explaining, “with only 17 field players allowed on the roster, and minimal time in between matches, I think we have one of the most versatile rosters ever for a qualifying tournament. Most of the field players are capable of playing at least two positions and as CONCACAF competitions generally present teams that will sit low and get numbers behind the ball, it is important to have players that can individually and collectively break teams down to create chances.”
As tough as this roster was for Ellis to select the coach will have to winnow it down by two more, should the Americans, as expected, qualify as one of the two top finishers, and advance to Brazil to represent CONCACAF this summer in Brazil.
19 of the 20 players on the U.S. WNT World Cup Qualifying squad come from NWSL clubs, a promising sign of growth for the league as it prepares for its fourth season.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (7): Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash)
FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)