New faces provide glimpse of United States' future
Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan aren't going anywhere but U.S. national team coach Jill Ellis is still getting a look at new faces as the group embarks on Olympic qualifying.
Among the young players on the qualification roster are 17-year-old sensation Mallory Pugh, who got her first national team goal in her debut with the team last weekend against Ireland, and Crystal Dunn, the last player cut from the roster that won the Women's World Cup last summer.
There's also Emily Sonnett, the first player taken in the National Women's Soccer League draft earlier this month, and Lindsey Horan, who went from high school to Paris Saint-Germain.
The young talent will be showcased during the Olympic qualifying tournament for North and Central America and the Caribbean region next month in Texas. Eight of the 20 players on the roster have eight or less appearances on the senior team.
The new faces offer a glimpse of what the team will look like as it embarks on the new quad before the next World Cup in 2019. Should the team make the field for the Rio Games as expected, Ellis will have to pare the roster down to 18.
The group that won last year's World Cup was the oldest in the field, with an average age of 29.5 years. The average age of the team assembled for qualifying is 25.7.
A look at some of the young Americans:
CRYSTAL DUNN: The 23-year-old from New Hyde Park, New York, was a MAC Hermann Trophy Winner and won an NCAA championship while at North Carolina. She just missed out on making the team for the World Cup in Canada.
Instead of wallowing in the missed chance, Dunn became the MVP of the NWSL. Playing for the Washington Spirit, Dunn scored 15 goals in 20 appearances. Ellis brought her in for the team's victory tour following the World Cup, and she scored four goals.
"I think every level is quicker, the girls are quicker on the ball, they're stronger. And with every level there's more knowledge of the game that you have to catch up with," Dunn said. "In college as a freshman I was always worried: 'I'm not that tall, I'm not that big. These 20-year-old women are going to bump me around.' Then you get out of college and the range of women is even greater, you're a 21-year-old playing with 28-year-olds. So it's a constant adjustment."
Dunn is the most experienced of the young players, having made her first national team appearances in 2013.
EMILY SONNETT: A 22-year-old from Georgia, Sonnett was the first overall pick in the NWSL draft this month by the Portland Thorns. She was named the ACC defender of the year last year for Virginia, which advanced to the quarterfinals of the College Cup.
She got her first cap with the national team against Brazil during the victory tour.
"It's great that I'm getting to play with really good players like (U.S. defenders) Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston and learning from them in this national team environment," she said.
LINDSEY HORAN: The 21-year old grew up in Golden Colorado and was a standout on the U.S. under-17 team. A top prospect, she won a scholarship to play for North Carolina but instead decided to play professionally overseas in France.
In three seasons with PSG, she had 46 goals in 63 appearances. She decided to return to the U.S. in the run-up to the Olympic Games, and signed earlier this month with the Thorns.
SAM MEWIS: The 23-year-old midfielder has been up with the senior team several times since early 2014, when she made her first appearance in a friendly against Canada. She also was on the roster for the 2014 Algarve Cup team.
Mewis was taken fourth overall in last year's NWSL draft by the Western New York Flash out of UCLA. The six-footer had four goals and four assists in 20 games her first club season.
STEPHANIE MCCAFFREY: Hailing from Massachusetts, the 22-year-old forward went to Boston College and plays for the NWSL's Boston Breakers.
She ranks fifth on the Eagles' all-time list with 32 career goals. She was named rookie of the year last season with the Breakers, with three goals and three assists in 19 appearances.
McCaffrey scored a goal in her debut with the national team, a 3-1 victory over Brazil last October.
JAELENE HINKLE: The 22-year-old defender is a Denver native and played at Texas Tech, where she was a 4.0 student her senior year while co-captaining the Red Raiders.
Hinkle was drafted seventh overall in the 2015 NWSL draft by the Western New York Flash and started in all 20 matches her rookie year. She had her first call-up with the national team last year during the victory tour.
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