The expectations for the United States women’s national team are about as high as they get for any team. The best evidence of the astronomically high bar for the USWNT is the coverage of their 2023 SheBelieves Cup triumph.
Despite getting three-straight wins against No. 6 Canada, No. 11 Japan and No. 9 Brazil while only conceding once, the consensus is that there’s still lots of work to do and roster spots to figure out.
“Performances leave questions for World Cup,” ESPN said. “World Cup roster questions linger,” NBC claims.
Up next for head coach Vlatko Andonovski and his team is a pair of friendlies in Austin and St. Louis against No. 23 Ireland in April.
!USA vs Republic of Ireland
Presented by @trulyseltzer
— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) February 23, 2023
Those two games will be the last ones before Andonovski names his 23-player World Cup roster.
The big question remains.
Is USWNT ready for the World Cup?
Almost, but not quite.
If this question was being asked in November 2022 when the USWNT lost three games in-a-row the answer would’ve been a massive HELL NO. Fast forward four months and the outlook is more optimistic.
The two biggest reasons for the USWNT not being ready are some shaky performances at the SheBelieves Cup and uncertainty over the 23-woman roster that will be selected for the World Cup.
An area that was cause for the most concern was the U.S. midfield. The 2-0 victory vs. Canada went smoothly, however the next two games against Japan and Brazil weren’t amazing.
A trio of Ashley Sanchez, Kristie Mewis and Lindsey Horan started against Japan and were overwhelmed at points. Mewis playing the defensive role was an interesting gamble from Andonovski which didn’t really work out. The USWNT looked vulnerable to Japan’s pressing.
The next game vs. Brazil saw a different issue. The USWNT midfield struggled at times to stop Brazil’s counterattacks. Rose Lavelle made her first appearance of the tournament after recovering from a knock and played in the midfield with Andi Sullivan and Horan.
Sullivan was a step off the pace, Lavelle didn’t look 100% and overall, it was another average performance from the midfield.
We’ve said before how the midfield is unbalanced, and it will be interesting to see who Andonovski selects for the Ireland friendlies.
As for picking the 23-player World Cup roster, no one is envying being Andonovski. Narrowing down the player pool to those final 23 will be a brutal task. The latest update given by the USWNT head coach is that the coaching staff has whittled it down to 32 names.
Sophia Smith, Catarina Macario, Tierna Davidson, Kelly O’Hara, Christen Press and Tobin Heath all missed the 2023 SheBelieves Cup with injuries but should be available for the World Cup. How many of those injured players will Andonovski include in the final 23?
There are several locks for the roster. Players like Alex Morgan, Mallory Swanson, Smith, Horan, Lavelle, Emily Fox, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alyssa Naeher are for-sure going to the World Cup and likely starting.
The amount of question marks as to who else Andonovski brings is a reason why this team isn’t quite ready for the World Cup.
Check back to this article in six months and hopefully we're laughing about what we were so worried about.