This summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off June 26, and with the first match only five weeks away, national team coach Pia Sundhage has announced the United States' roster.
Four-time World Cup player and defender Christine Rampone, 35, will captain the squad. She’s the only player on this year’s roster who was part of the 1999 team that won the U.S.-hosted FIFA World Cup in a championship match over China. That final ended in a penalty shootout in front of just over 90,000 fans in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, which remains the most-attended women’s-only sports event in history.
The summer of 1999 was second time that the U.S. women stole the tournament -- they also emerged as champions of the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991 -- and they’ve placed third three times, in 1995, 2003 and in the most recent tournament in 2007. The U.S. men have experienced far less success on the international level -- where men’s soccer is historically far more entrenched than women’s -- and the men’s top World Cup performance remains the pre-World War II third-place finish in 1930.
Germany, which won the last two World Cups, will host this summer’s matches. The U.S. heads into the tournament ranked No. 1, even though a shocking loss last year to lower-ranked Mexico in the semifinals of the qualifying round for the North American, Central American and Caribbean region momentarily called into question whether the U.S. would be in attendance at all. A close 1-0 victory over Italy in a playoff round dispelled those fears, although the Mexico upset lingers as a nagging reminder to the Americans that the international women’s soccer field has become far more democratic than other sports, such as hockey, and that defending their first-place ranking may be more difficult than they would like to believe.
That said, the U.S.’s past championship experience is on full display in this summer’s roster. Fourteen players on the squad were part of the team that won the 2008 Olympics, and almost half the players have competed -- and medaled -- in at least one other World Cup tournament.
Sundhage announced what she hoped to be the final roster last week, but on Sunday midfielder Lindsay Tarpley, 27, re-tore her ACL, an injury she’d been nursing since the end of the 2009 Women’s Professional Soccer season. Until Tarpley was pulled from the team due to the injury -- which will sideline her for about six months -- she was second on the roster for international career goals with 32, trailing forward Abby Wambach, 30, who is currently the fourth leading scorer in international history. Sudhage said that Tarpley’s replacement will be announced in the next few days.
The 5-foot 11-inch Wambach, who plays for the WPS team magicJack and is one of the few women to earn sponsorship from both industry heavy hitters Nike and Gatorade, is an obvious player to watch during the tournament. She helped the U.S. win an Olympic gold medal in Athens in 2004, and she has a nearly unparalleled record of 118 international goals, despite breaking her leg just before the Bejing Olympics, an injury that prevented her from playing in the games. (The U.S. won anyway.) Now she’s back on the field after recovering not only from the broken tibia and fibula but also from a bout of Achilles tendonitis earlier this spring.
On the novice end of the spectrum, 21-year-old forward Alex Morgan is the team’s youngest player. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010 as the team’s leading scorer and headed straight to the Western New York Flash, a new WPS expansion team, as the league’s No. 1 pick. Morgan scored her first professional goal earlier this May, and scored the crucial goal in the match against Italy last year to solidify the U.S.’s qualifying slot.
In goal will be Nicole Barnhart, Hope Solo and World Cup newbie Jill Loyden. Solo, who came back from shoulder surgery last September, has a nearly perfect goalkeeping record, losing just one game over the past six years.
Here is a complete roster of the U.S. World Cup team, except for Tarpley’s replacement:
Hope Solo, Goalkeeper
Heather Mitts, Defender
Christie Rampone, Defender and Captain
Becky Sauerbrunn, Defender
Amy LePeilbet, Defender
Shannon Boxx, Midfielder
Amy Rodriguez, Forward
Heather O’Reilly, Midfielder
Carli Lloyd, Midfielder
Ali Krieger, Defender
Lauren Cheney, Forward
Alex Morgan, Forward
Stephanie Cox, Defender
Megan Rapinoe, Midfielder
Lori Lindsey, Midfielder
Tobin Heath, Midfielder
Nicole Barnhart, Goalkeeper
Rachel Buehler, Defender
Abby Wambach, Forward,
Jillian Loyden, Goalkeeper
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