The United States women's national team will attempt to qualify for the soccer portion of this summer's Olympics in Brazil with a noticeably younger roster than that which won the FIFA Women's World Cup less than a year ago.
A day after forward Sydney Leroux confirmed she is pregnant and will be unavailable, U.S. Soccer on Tuesday released the 20-player roster that will compete in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Olympic qualifying tournament to be held at multiple sites in Texas in February. The two finalists in the eight-team CONCACAF event qualify for the Olympics, a 12-team tournament held at multiple sites in Brazil in August.
The United States was the oldest team in the 2015 World Cup, with an average age of 29.2. The average age of the Olympic qualifying roster is 25.7
The American roster includes familiar names like Carli Lloyd, newly named FIFA player of the year, Alex Morgan, who recently became the 34th American woman to make 100 international appearances and Hope Solo, the Golden Glove winner as the World Cup's best goalkeeper.
All told, nine of the 11 players who started the World Cup final against Japan are on the new roster, with only Lauren Holiday (retirement) and Megan Rapinoe (knee injury) missing. In addition to Solo, the continuity includes the entire back line of Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger and Becky Sauerbrunn that came within seconds of setting a World Cup record for the most consecutive minutes played without allowing a goal.
Yet due to factors including retirement, injury, pregnancies, 10 players who were on the World Cup roster will not be part of Olympic qualifying. In addition to Holiday and Rapinoe, the most familiar are the recently retired Abby Wambach, international soccer's all-time leading goal scorer, and Christie Rampone, the 40-year-old captain and defender out with a knee injury.
Also missing will be forwards Leroux and Amy Rodriguez, each of whom is pregnant, retirees Shannon Boxx and Lori Chalupny and veterans Whitney Engen and Heather O'Reilly.
In their place, seven players will compete in their first major tournament for the United States at the senior level. Six field players have fewer than 10 all-time appearances for the United States, including 17-year-old high school senior Mallory Pugh, who became the youngest woman in 16 years to score for the United States when she did so in her international debut this past weekend against Ireland.
The newcomers also include Emily Sonnett, a defender who was the No. 1 overall pick in the recent NWSL draft and the espnW national player of the year as a senior at the University of Virginia. The others are Lindsey Horan, who passed on college scholarship offers to play professionally with Paris Saint-Germain in France's top division, and Jaelene Hinkle, Stephanie McCaffrey and Samantha Mewis, all of whom are entering their second NWSL seasons.
No country has won World Cup and Olympic titles in successive years. There was no Olympic women's soccer competition in 1992, the year after the United States won the first ever World Cup, and the Americans earned silver in the 2000 Olympics, a year after winning the World Cup.
The United States begins the qualifying tournament with a game against Costa Rica on Feb. 10 in Frisco, Texas. It also plays Mexico and Puerto Rico in group play.
Below is the full roster for Olympic qualifying:
Goalkeepers: Ashlyn Harris, Alyssa Naeher, Hope Solo
Defenders: Jaelene Hinkle, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Kelley O'Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Emily Sonnett
Midfielders: Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd, Samantha Mewis
Forwards: Crystal Dunn, Stephanie McCaffrey, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh