- The players set to join the USWNT at this summer’s Olympics will be revealed Wednesday morning.
- Making the team for the games is notoriously difficult, as the roster includes just 18 athletes.
- Insider spoke to four USWNT players about the challenge of fighting for a roster spot.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The US Women’s National Team is playing for history at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, vying to become the first team to earn gold directly after winning the most prestigious soccer tournament on the planet – the World Cup.
But before players can band together to attempt the unprecedented feat, they’ll have to do something nearly as difficult: make the roster.
USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski will bring some of the best women’s soccer players on the planet with him to represent Team USA in Tokyo. And unlike the 2019 World Cup, where former head coach Jill Ellis had 23 athletes at her disposal, Andonovski has room for just 18 players ono his roster.
The five-person difference makes all the difference in the world, 2019 World Cup breakout star Rose Lavelle said.
“Obviously the World Cup roster is 23, the Olympic roster is 18, and there’s a tighter turnaround in between games,” Lavelle told Insider. “Versatility is everything in that roster, because it’s a smaller roster. So you need people who can fill different roles. You have to be fit and healthy and ready to go because of the quick turnaround. And especially in the heat in Tokyo, it’s going to be very demanding physically.”
“It’s like a whole different beast,” she added. “I don’t know why it’s a roster of 18, but it definitely like adds a little bit more pressure leading into the roster announcement and who’s gonna make it.”
Sam Mewis is arguably the best midfielder on the planet right now. She was a bona fide star during her 2020-2021 season with Manchester City, dominating the Women’s Super League across the pond before returning to the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League.
And with six points – four goals and two assists – under her belt through seven games, the 1.83m “Tower of Power” has been among the most prolific players on the USWNT this year. Mewis as close to a lock for the Olympics roster as a player could be.
But even she’s feeling the stress that comes with the territory.
“We all are eager and anxious about the roster,” Mewis told Insider. “All of us are just trying to put ourselves in the best position to make the roster and help the team win and whatever way we can.”
With the looming roster drop, Mewis is concerned about more than her own Olympics fate. Her older sister, fellow midfielder Kristie Mewis, is one of the 23 women who suited up for the USWNT at the Summer Series in June. The Houston Dash star is looking to make her first USWNT roster for a major international tournament.
Lynn Williams – a forward who doubles as Sam Mewis’ club teammate, podcast co-host, and former roomate – finds herself in a similar position.
“The idea of getting to experience that with both of them is very exciting,” Mewis told Insider. “I really hope that it happens.”
Williams narrowly missed the World Cup roster in 2019, but she’s made her case to Andonovski throughout the lead-up to the Tokyo games. She’s played exceptionally well in the NWSL, finishing second in the league in scoring – and the first among Americans – in 2019.
She added five goals and six assists on the USWNT through 2020 and 2021. Punching her ticket to Tokyo, Williams said, “would be a cherry on top” of her standout run.
“It is a dream of mine,” she told Insider. “But at the same time, if it doesn’t happen, of course I’ll be sad and then life will go on. I’ll continue to play soccer and I will watch on TV. And if I make the roster, I will smile and life will go on and I will watch – hopefully from the field.”
Of course, there are few people on the planet who have more experience making USWNT rosters than Carli Lloyd. Even still, the prolific striker – who has won two gold medals and made four World Cup teams in 303 USWNT caps – isn’t a shoo-in to make the 18-person team headed to Tokyo.
Lloyd will turn 39 just before the Olympics begin next month. Should she make the roster, she’d be among the oldest players in the team’s history.
“I think the depth of this team just makes it incredibly difficult,” Lloyd told Insider. “We’ve had players who have been around in the World Cup cycle from 2019 and even in the 2016 Olympic cycle. In 2015, a lot of people retired and moved on, but now we’re in a space where players have consistently been around since 2016. And so when you go from a roster of 23 in the World Cup to a roster of 18, which is 16 field players, I mean, it’s insane.”
“It’s a challenge,” she added. “I mean, obviously it’s a very difficult decision for any coach to make.”
Lloyd would be the first to tell you that she belongs among those 16 field players. But regardless of who Andonovski chooses to make the trip overseas, the USWNT legend is confident that they’ll show out for the stars and stripes.
“This team is incredible,” Lloyd said. “And I know that no matter what group of players go, it’s going to be the best squad and everybody will be prepared and ready.”