The chapter that was 2023 for the USWNT is now officially in the past. To kick off a hopeful 2024, the USWNT is set to host the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup in preparation for the highly anticipated 2024 Paris Olympic Games this summer. With Emma Hayes serving her final few months at the helm of Chelsea Women, interim head coach Twila Kilgore remains at the reins. Even with the English manager at a distance, the roster evaluation is ongoing as this team needs to be shrunk to just 18 by the summer.
Since the dismissal of Vlatko Andonovski, the Red, White, and Blue have outscored its opposition 13-1 in friendlies, leaning on youth more than ever in the most recent window. Kilgore's roster for the W Gold Cup features the return of Alyssa Naher and Crystal Dunn into the team. The 23 players still do not include big names such as Andi Sullivan, Kelley O'Hara, Alex Morgan, and Becky Sauerbrunn. Performance within their respective NWSL teams is going to be crucial for these players on the outside looking in just months before the Olympics.
Seven of the 23 called in have seven or fewer caps. Two of which netted the goals that sparked the comeback against China last December. Jaedyn Shaw continues to be a player to watch as someone with two goals in four total caps. The San Diego Wave FC star has been a livewire in the attack, putting on display the kind of versatility Hayes craves in footballers.
Mallory Swanson, fullback Gisele Thompson, and Savannah DeMelo will act as training players in support of the 23 within the squad. Per Kilgore, Alyssa Thompson and Catarina Macario were not named among the 23 due to recovery plans for their respective injuries. According to Hayes, Macario has a "high chance" to return to the Chelsea team following the international break.
In an interview with CONCACAF, Rose Lavelle expressed her excitement for what lies ahead in this international window.
“It’s an exciting time. We have a lot of young, newer players coming up who are really talented and some veteran players, so I think it’s a good mix. We are really excited for the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and come back stronger,” said Lavelle. “I think any time you can compete for a trophy, it’s exciting. It would be huge for us in this new cycle to be able to lift a trophy.”
The competition will take place in four different locations across the United States, beginning on February 20 and concluding with the final on March 10. Let's jump right into it. Here is everything you'll need to tune into the USWNT's W Gold Cup this month.
23-player roster for the CONCACAF W Gold Cup
Goalkeepers: Alyssa Naeher, Casey Murphy, Jane Campbell
Defenders: Naomi Girma, Tierna Davidson, Jenna Nighswonger, Alana Cook, Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn, Emily Fox, Casey Krueger
Midfielders: Emily Sonnett, Sam Coffey, Korbin Albert, Lindsey Horan, Olivia Moultrie, Rose Lavelle
Forwards: Midge Purce, Mia Fishel, Lynn Williams, Jaedyn Shaw, Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith
What you need to know about the USWNT's group stage opponents
In terms of prep for the Olympics, you can't get much better than this. The tournament features five nations, not including the United States within FIFA's top 35 of its most recent rankings which came out in December. The USWNT's group features a Mexican team moving in the right direction, and Argentina, a country that qualified for the last World Cup. The last spot is reserved for the winner of
Guyana vs. the Dominican Republic which is slated to take place along with two other matches on Feb. 17. It may not be the group of death that Group B should be considered as, but the opposition should no doubt test this youthful U.S. crew.
Here is a look at the opposition in the USWNT's way in Group A.
That last time we saw Mexico in a major tournament, it fell flat on its face in the CONCACAF W-Championship. Since we've begun to see a bit of a revival. Spain's former U-19 women's national coach Pedro López was hired by the federation, bringing with him that "Spanish flair" that led this national team to an unbeaten 2023. Back in November, El Tri Femenil secured the gold medal at the Pan-American Games in Chile, a tournament in which the U.S. sent its U-19 side.
The team is filled with familiar faces from the NWSL including the left-footed wizard herself, Maria Sanchez, and 23-year-old now Bay FC winger Scarlett Camberos (some slick combination play between the two is in that video below). Out of all the teams in this tournament, Mexico may have the most to prove, so it'll be interesting to see the kind of display it puts together against Argentina to kick things off.
If you're looking for a player to keep an eye on within Lopez's team not in the NWSL, Alexia Delgado may be it. The 24-year-old is a defensive midfielder who has been a critical player to Tigres' success since signing with the club on a two-year deal back in June. She netted an absolute stunner back in September against Trinidad and Tobago from essentially the parking lot in a 6-0 win.
While Mexico wasn't a part of the World Cup field this past summer, Germán Portanova and Argentina were. The third-place finishers in the 2022 Copa América Femenina failed to make it out of the group stage, earning a single point from a valiant comeback against South Africa. Back in a "tournament-type" environment, this is a second chance for this nation to show what it can do against some of the world's best.
Portanova's team will be heading into this tournament eyeing a bit of respect from a federation that has mistreated it for decades. The nation has two large voids to fill with the retirements of former captain Florencia Bonsegundo and one of Atlético Madrid's main midfield rotational players Estefanía Banini after the conclusion of the World Cup. Both were among the seven Argentine players to start in every group-stage match this past summer.
The most recognizable names donning the blue and white stripes have to be Sophia Braun, one of KC Current's newest additions, and Orlando Pride's Mariana Larroquette. Braun, a right-back netted Argentina's first goal at the last World Cup, a screamer from outside the box vs. Desiree Ellis' crew. 26-year-old Yamila Rodríguez was the star at the last Copa América Femenina, taking home the Golden Boot honors with six goals including two in the third-place match against Paraguay.
Guyana and the Dominican Republic
For nations like these, just earning a chance to compete among the world's best in a major tournament is a win. Guyana and the Dominican Republic are two countries that finished atop their respective groups in the "League B" pot of qualification. Both netted 20 or more goals while conceding fewer than four in six total fixtures. Unlike many of these teams in this competition, they have to scratch and claw their way to get in. No automatic spots.
Guyana is led by Omar Khan, a native of the country who was announced as the new leader back in September. Chatham Town striker Otesha Charles was the standout in the group stage, netting seven goals, tied for second most in the W Cup qualifiers so far.
Las Quisqueyanas are similar to their opposition on Feb. 17 in that they're stacked with players competing collegiately in the United States. VCU's Jazmin Jackson has captained the DR in the scoring department so far with others chipping in like ex-Tottenham defender Lucía León. Guyana may be the slight favorite but don't count out Henry Parra's team.
Schedule for the USWNT's group stage and beyond
USWNT Group A schedule:
Match Day #1: Tuesday, February 20 at 10:15 p.m. EST vs. Guyana or the Dominican Republic
Match Day #2: Friday, February 23 at 10:15 p.m. EST vs. Argentina
Match Day #3: Monday, February 26 at 10:15 p.m. EST vs. Mexico
Note: All USWNT group stage matches will be played at Dignity Health Sports Park
Quarterfinals: Saturday, March 2 (kick-offs: 7:00 and 10:15 p.m. EST), and Sunday, March 3 (kick-offs: 5:00 and 8:15 p.m. EST) at BMO Stadium
Semifinals: Wednesday, March 6 at Snapdragon Stadium (kick-offs: 7:00 and 10:15 p.m. EST)
Final: Sunday, March 10 at Snapdragon Stadium (kick-off: 8:15 p.m. EST)
Predicted XI on Feb. 20 at Dignity Health Sports Park
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy
Defenders: Naomi Girma, Emily Fox, Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn
Midfielders: Lindsey Horan, Sam Coffey, Rose Lavelle
Forwards: Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith, Jaedyn Shaw
Tickets for the first USWNT match in Carson, California in the home of the L.A. Galaxy are for sale. Don't miss out on the first action of 2024. Contests will be streamed live on Paramount+ and the CBS Golazo Network.