Predicting U.S. Olympic women’s soccer roster based off World Cup

Abby Wambach
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It’s possible, arguably likely, that the entire 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team will be made up of 2015 Women’s World Cup players, in part because the Olympic roster maximum is 18 players, versus 23 for the World Cup.

Take a look at history. Women’s soccer debuted at the Olympics in 1996. In five Olympics, an average of 3.4 players per Games made the U.S. Olympic team after not being on the previous year’s World Cup team.

But that was when World Cup roster sizes were 20 or 21 players, making it tougher to pull off the World Cup-Olympic double.

Unsurprisingly, most of those Americans who made the Olympics after missing the World Cup were young.

Of the 17 combined players who made the Olympics after missing the previous year’s World Cup, 13 of them were age 23 or younger.

Two of the four outliers were Heather Mitts, who missed the 2003 and 2007 World Cup after injuries. One was 25-year-old goalie Kristin Luckenbill in 2004.

Excluding the injury-riddled Mitts, the only field player over age 23 to make the Olympics after missing the World Cup was Brandi Chastain, as a 27-year-old at Atlanta 1996 (and the only 23-year-old, Michelle French, was a late replacement for the retiring Michelle Akers less than one month before Sydney 2000).

In 2012, the U.S. Olympic team of 18 players included 17 players from the 2011 World Cup roster of 21. The single newcomer was forward Sydney Leroux, who would have been the youngest player on the 2011 World Cup team, had she made it.

This year, the last two cuts from the World Cup team were defenders Rachel Van Hollebeke, who turns 30 in August, and Crystal Dunn, who turns 23 in July.

In 2016, both Van Hollebeke and Dunn will be older than any field player who made a U.S. Olympic team after missing a World Cup team in good health since Chastain in 1996.

Perhaps the most intriguing Olympic hopeful not at the World Cup is Lindsey Horan, a 21-year-old recovering from microfracture surgery on one of her knees in the winter.

Horan turned professional after high school, skipping college to play in Europe, a decision that may have hindered her U.S. national team possibilities even before the knee surgery.

However, Horan plays forward, a stacked position. On the World Cup team is Abby Wambach, the 35-year-old who’s not committing to a run to Rio, plus Morgan, Leroux, Christen Press, three stars 26 and younger, and Amy Rodriguez.

In 2012, defender Christie Rampone became the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s soccer player ever at age 37, according to sports-reference, and the first four-time Olympian in program history. She’s on the U.S. World Cup roster but did not play in the 3-1 opening win over Australia on Monday.

Here’s the U.S. World Cup team and therefore the likeliest of U.S. Olympic hopefuls:

Goalkeepers: Hope Solo, Ashlyn Harris, Alyssa Naeher

Defenders: Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Lori Chalupny, Whitney Engen, Kelley O’Hara

Midfielders: Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Shannon Boxx, Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Heather O’Reilly

Forwards: Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Christen Press, Amy Rodriguez

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