USWNT April international window: Guide to SheBelieves Cup

And just like that, another pre-Olympic challenge for the USWNT is upon us. Here is everything you should know before the SheBelieves Cup kick-off on the afternoon of April 6 in the Peach State.

United States v Brazil: Final - 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup
United States v Brazil: Final - 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup / Jenny Chuang/ISI Photos/USSF/GettyImages

With the CONCACAF W Gold Cup title in its back pocket, the USWNT continues on its road of preparation for the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics. In the April international window, four top-10 nations in the world of women's football are set to compete in the eighth annual SheBelieves Cup.

For the final time in 2024, Twila Kilgore will lead the Red, White, and Blue out as the sideline leader. Emma Hayes, the longtime manager of Chelsea Women is set to take the reins for the June friendlies against South Korea, a little over a month before this summer's major tournament. Kilgore will serve as an assistant coach on Hayes' staff once she makes her way across the pond.

Her roster is riddled with headlines from talented returnees to intriguing newcomers. Though she isn't there yet, Hayes is making quite the impression with the recruits from overseas. Six out of the 23 individuals named to the team currently compete in European football, unlike just one that made up the last World Cup squad. 19 of the players from the W Gold Cup winning roster return for a shot at another pre-Olympic trophy.

16-year-old Ajax midfielder Lily Yohannes and 21-year-old Paris Saint-Germain defender Eva Gaetino received their first senior call-ups after showing out on the European stage this season. Yohannes is one of just four of Ajax's players with seven or more goal contributions in the Eredivisie Vrouwen this year. Gaetino, a teammate of Korbin Albert netted her first professional goal just a few weeks ago in a triumph over BK Hacken.

World-class explosiveness up front has made a return. Mallory Swanson, and Catarina Macario, the winners of the last two SheBelieves Cup MVPs are back, taking up two of the seven forward spots on the 23-player roster. Swanson recently trained with the USWNT during the CONCACAF W Gold Cup but has not appeared internationally since that infamous Ireland friendly last April.

So far in the NWSL, Swanson has been quite impactful for the Red Stars, earning the start in Chicago's opening two outings. Macario, on the other hand, has only been seen coming off the bench for Chelsea in 2024. That hasn't limited her ability to make her mark on the pitch, piling up four-goal contributions since making her CFCW debut on March 3.

You'd assume a minutes restriction will be put into place for both of them this April.

“The W Gold Cup provided a lot of players with needed experiences and presented us with different adversities we had to overcome together," stated Kilgore. "We will take all these experiences with us into SheBelieves and beyond. Of course, we’re thrilled to welcome back Mal and Cat and continue to incorporate some less experienced players into the mix.”

With some more limited experience entering the fold, others had to make their way out. Notable names missed the cut, mostly due to injury. Those include Midge Purce who announced recently that she unfortunately tore her ACL and will be out for an extended period of time. Rose Lavelle, Lynn Williams, and Alana Cook are all not a part of this group, having not made an NWSL appearance so far this season. The biggest surprise absentee has to be North Carolina Courage midfielder Ashley Sanchez who has been exceptional in her new free role under Sean Nahas so far.

23-player roster for the 2024 SheBelieves Cup

Goalkeepers: Casey Murphy, Alyssa Naeher, Jane Campbell

Defenders: Jenna Nighswonger, Tierna Davidson, Abby Dahlkemper, Naomi Girma, Emily Fox, Casey Krueger, Eva Gaetino, Crystal Dunn

Midfielders: Sam Coffey, Lindsey Horan, Korbin Albert, Lily Yohannes, Emily Sonnett, Olivia Moultrie

Forwards: Jaedyn Shaw, Alex Morgan, Trinity Rodman, Catarina Macario, Mallory Swanson, Sophia Smith

What you need to know about the USWNT's opposition/SheBelieves format

This year, the SheBelieves format is slightly different. Instead of the round-robin six-fixture group stage-style competition we've become used to, the 2024 version features just four contests altogether. The same three countries that were a part of the 2023 iteration, Canada, Japan, and Brazil join the four-time Women's World Cup champions. The two victors from the semifinal matches will match up in the final while the other two square off for third place.

In recent years, the SheBelieves Cup has belonged to the Stars and Stripes. The four-time Olympic Gold Medalists have won six out of the eight that have been played since 2016 including the last four. In fact, the last contest within this international competition that the USWNT did lose was all the way back in 2017 against France when Camille Abily and Eugénie Le Sommer combined for two goals within the first ten minutes. Here is a look at the three nations that stand in the USWNT's way of a fifth straight SheBelieves crown.


To kick this whole thing off, the USWNT encounter the only country that managed to take down Spain at the most recent World Cup, Japan. Led by Futoshi Ikeda, the No. 7 ranked team in the world is unbeaten in seven out of its eight fixtures since Sweden sent it home packing on the world stage. That includes an impressive victory in Brazil in which it completely stymied the CONMEBOL juggernaut.

Aoba Fujino's second-half finish against North Korea in late February sealed the Asian outfit's fate at its sixth-ever Olympic Games. The reward -- a ticket into the tournament's "group of death" includes Brazil, Japan, and the victor of Nigeria and South Africa. Though Japan will be without Jun Endo, there is talent throughout its entire player pool. Keep an eye out for Yui Hasegawa, arguably the Women's Super League's best-holding midfielder this season. Moeka Minami, the left-sided center-back who plays for AS Roma is one to know. She ranks second on Alessandro Spugna's team in total passes completed in Serie A so far this season.

Brazil and Canada

While we know the technical Japanese outfit will square off with the Red, White, and Blue, the second opponent of this international window is up in the air. They are by no means going to be unfamiliar opposition for Kilgore and company though. Her side saw both Brazil and Canada en route to the CONCACAF W Gold Cup title. The juggernauts from the Western Hemisphere split a two-game series back in October with the Canadians taking the final match on Halloween following a defeat in Montreal.

Under the tutelage of Arthur Elias, the Brazilians have bounced back since the World Cup, outside of that Gold Cup final defeat in San Diego. Due to some injuries, Elias' squad is not as strong as it was at the beginning of the Gold Cup. Arguably the nation's best defender, Rafaelle, and KC Current star Debinha are missing from the team. Debinha's hamstring is set to be re-evaluated at the end of the international break. Bia Zaneratto, Bruninha, Adriana, Geyse, Gabi Nunes, and Chicago Red Stars' Julia Bianchi are also notable individuals not in Elias' April squad. 14 players from the Gold Cup roster did not make it into this team. Four NWSL players, three of whom compete for Orlando Pride, made the cut including Marta.

Bev Priestman and Canada enter this competition for the third time in the last four years. In 2023, the USWNT's North American rivals were shut out by the Red, White, and Blue, and Japan. Despite finishing at the bottom that year, the Canadians did manage to beat the Brazilians at Geodis Park in Nashville. All four players with multiple W Gold Cup goals including 19-year-old Olivia Smith are back in Priestman's SheBelieves roster. Janine Beckie and Desiree Scott also make their return to the international stage for the first time since their respective long-term knee injuries.

Nichelle Prince, Jayde Riviere, and Sydney Collins were all deemed unfit to be considered for selection. 20-year-old Simi Awujo was the 2022 Canada Soccer Young Player of the Year and appeared in all but one W Gold Cup fixture. Seeing her continued growth in the middle of the park alongside captain Jessie Fleming is something to watch.

2024 SheBelieves Cup schedule

Semifinals - Saturday, April 6 at
Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Match #1: USWNT vs. Japan at 12:30 p.m. EST

Match #2: Brazil vs. Canada at 3:30 p.m. EST

Final/Third-place Match - Tuesday, April 9 at Field

Kick-offs: 4:00 p.m. EST and 7:00 p.m. EST

Note: Whether the USWNT is in the third-place match or the Championship, it will compete in that 7:00 p.m. EST slot.

Predicted starting XI against Japan on April 6

Goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher

Defenders: Naomi Girma, Tierna Davidson, Casey Krueger, Emily Fox

Midfielders: Lindsey Horan, Korbin Albert, Sam Coffey

Forwards: Trinity Rodman, Jaedyn Shaw, Alex Morgan

All the competition's matches will be streamed across TNT, NBC Universo, Peacock, and MAX. Information on purchasing tickets can be found at this link.