Former medal winners Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman headline the United States' roster for softball's Olympic return in 2020, the sport's first appearance since 2008.
USA Softball and national team coach Ken Eriksen announced the 15-player roster, as well as three alternates, after a four-day selection camp in Oklahoma City.
Widely considered the best American pitchers of their generation, Abbott, 34, and Osterman, 36, are the only players on Team USA who have previous Olympic experience. Both won silver medals in 2008, when the U.S. was upset by Japan. Osterman also won a gold medal in 2004.
Osterman returned to competition a year ago after three years in retirement to pursue the opportunity to compete in the Olympics for a third time. She is one of five players named to the Olympic roster, along with Ally Carda, Amanda Chidester, Dejah Mulipola, Bubba Nickles, who were not part of the active roster for the team that won the 2018 WBSC World Championship.
Winning that biennial event allowed the U.S. to qualify directly for the Olympics.
Abbott and Osterman are joined as pitching options by Carda and Rachel Garcia, the two-time reigning college player of the year at UCLA. Garcia is one of three active collegians on the roster, along with UCLA teammate and outfielder Nickles and Arizona catcher Mulipola.
Those three are the only Team USA players born after softball made its Olympic debut in 1996.
The most experienced position players are first baseman Valerie Arioto and outfielder Michelle Moultrie. Although Olympic rookies, they are the only players on the team who competed in each of the past four world championships. Those tournaments were held during an era when disagreements between the national governing body and National Pro Fastpitch often forced players to choose between competing for Team USA or playing in the domestic professional league.
The remainder of the Olympic roster features the core of the starting lineups that won world titles in 2016 and 2018, including second baseman Ali Aguilar and shortstop Delaney Spaulding, outfielders Haylie McCleney and Janie Reed, catcher Aubree Munro and versatile utility player Kelsey Stewart.
Pitcher Keilani Ricketts, catcher Taylor Edwards and infielder Hannah Flippen are alternates.
Softball was cut from the Olympic program after 2008, with suggestions as to why running the gamut from American domination to being the collateral damage of Major League Baseball's refusal to allow its players to compete in the Olympic baseball competition.
The sport returns in 2020 after the International Olympic Committee added flexibility for host nations to propose sports for inclusion. Tokyo organizers proposed a joint entry of baseball and softball, as well as climbing, karate, skateboarding and surfing.
A baseball-softball entry was not among the sports proposed by Paris organizers for the 2024 Olympics, leaving softball's future again uncertain.
The six teams in the 2020 event will play a total of 17 games, a round-robin format followed by the medal round that will conclude during the first week of the Olympics.
All six Olympic entrants have already qualified. Along with Japan and the United States, Australia and Canada have also qualified for all five Olympic softball competitions. Italy qualified for its third Olympics, while Mexico is the lone debut entrant after going unbeaten in a qualifying event for North and South America. (Team USA did not participate, having previously qualified.)