USWNT bubble players: Top contenders to watch during NWSL Play

Apr 22, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; OL Reign defender Emily Sonnett (2) dribbles the ball against the Chicago Red Stars at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; OL Reign defender Emily Sonnett (2) dribbles the ball against the Chicago Red Stars at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports /

With only so many players able to make the USWNT World Cup team, crucial spots are up for grabs with league play likely determining if these bubble players make the squad. 

With just over two months until the Women’s World Cup kicks off, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski will have to narrow his roster to just twenty-three talented players to take to the tournament.

There are no more international friendlies before the World Cup, so Andonovski will have to rely on league play to determine who deserves a spot on the roster. While there are some players guaranteed to make an appearance on this upcoming World Cup roster, not every player is a lock. Players who might be on the edge of earning that spot are the bubble players, and they’ll have to work extra hard to prove they deserve to be on that plane during the next month or so.

Here are a few bubble players to keep an eye on during their NWSL games and where their performances might’ve gotten them so far.

USWNT Roster Bubble: 6 contenders to watch in NWSL play

AD Franch

The Kansas City Current got off to a rough start this season, struggling to find a win and conceding too many goals during their first couple of matches. This wasn’t necessarily Franch’s fault, but it appears that she’s been sidelined for the moment. The Current’s secondary goalkeeper Cassie Miller has started for the last four games ever since she kept a clean sheet during their first Challenge Cup match against the Houston Dash. It’s possible that Franch losing her starting spot for a couple of games could affect her roster spot for the world cup. Franch has been getting called up consistently throughout 2023 along with Naeher and Murphy, and was expected to be a lock for the tournament. But if Andonovski feels as though he hasn’t seen her getting enough productive minutes, it’s possible that he could look to another goalkeeper to fill the third spot on his roster.

Where to see her next: Kansas City Current vs. San Diego Wave, May 14 at 6 p.m. ET, streaming on Paramount Plus

Emily Sonnett

Sonnett recently returned to the USWNT this year, coming back from injury that saw her on the bench for the second half of the Spirit’s season last year. This season she’s with OL Reign and is earning consistent starts in the Reign’s midfield. The Reign have been having a very positive season, currently sitting top of the standings as of week six, and Sonnett has played a key role in that success as a defensive midfielder. It’s incredibly unlikely she’ll play midfield for the national team, but that versatility could help her along to her second world cup roster. While she hasn’t started in any USWNT matches this year, she’s been a consistent second-half substitution for Andonovski when she’s healthy. If the Reign continue to do well, Sonnett might edge out other defenders who are having a less successful club season.

Where to see her next: OL Reign vs. North Carolina Courage, May 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET, streaming on Paramount Plus

Tierna Davidson and Casey Krueger

With the most goals conceded in all of league play, the Chicago Red Stars’ defense leaves much to be desired at the moment. Davidson and Krueger are a key component of that defense, starting in all six regular season matches for the Red Stars this year. While still excellent players in their own right, it’s worth noting that Chicago’s struggles could push them off the roster. Chicago’s backline hasn’t been able to click right this season, leading to lots of mistakes and struggling moments for their defense.

Both Davidson and Krueger only recently rejoined the USWNT roster for the latest Ireland friendlies back in April and they each only appeared in one match. The last roster was very defender heavy as Andonovski called in 10 defenders to the April matches, and it would make sense for him to start cutting players there. If Chicago’s poor scorelines continue, Kruger and Davidson might suffer the unfortunate fallout of those cuts and find themselves missing out on this World Cup.

Where to see them next: Chicago Red Stars vs. Racing Louisville, May 12, 8:30 p.m. ET, streaming on Paramount Plus

Alyssa Thompson

With the unfortunate loss of Mallory Swanson, Andonovski called in Thompson to replace her during the second friendly game. Thompson got her first start and played ninety minutes for the United States against the Irish. While she didn’t end up scoring with the national team, she’s since amended that with Angel City, leading them in terms of goals this year. The young talent has been on fire, scoring in her debut match and consistently outpacing her opponents, making her one of the most impressive rookies of the season so far. With the USWNT needing an attacker to replace Swanson, it’s possible that Thompson will be on her way to her first world cup very soon if she keeps scoring goals for Angel City. If Thompson were to start in the World Cup, she would become the youngest player to ever do so.

Where to see her next: Angel City FC vs. Washington Spirit, May 13 at 10 p.m. ET, streaming on Paramount Plus

Kristie Mewis

Gotham is on a roll this season, landing third place in the standings after week six and they only look to be heading up from here. As a large contributor to that success, Kristie Mewis, is currently eyeing her spot in the coveted USWNT midfield. The defensive midfield position has been a strong point of competition for the national team, but Kristie has earned consistent call-ups in the last couple of camps and has seen minutes on the field as a substitution for Sanchez, Lavelle, Sullivan, or Horan. Mewis has been having a very successful season with Gotham, earning an assist during the Challenge Cup and taking excellent shots on target in addition to strong defensive work. Starting every regular season match for Gotham so far, Mewis isn’t slowing down in her pursuit to earn her spot to her first World Cup.

Where to see her next: Gotham FC vs. Orlando Pride, May 14 at 5:30 p.m. ET, streaming on Paramount Plus

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