The U.S. women’s soccer squad wants to become the first nation to win the Olympic gold medal a year after capturing the Women’s World Cup. Head coach Jill Ellis announced Tuesday the 18 women who will be tasked with accomplishing that unprecedented feat.
The Americans have won the past three Olympic gold medals, to go with silver in 2000 and another gold in 1996.
The squad in Rio will be led by midfielder Carli Lloyd, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year and the team’s all-time leading scorer with 87 career goals. She netted the lone goal in the Americans’ 1-0 overtime victory against Brazil in the 2008 Olympic gold-medal game, and she scored both goals four years ago in London in the team’s 2-1 win over Japan.
She’ll make her third Olympic appearance, as will goalie Hope Solo and midfielder Tobin Heath. Solo is set to earn her 200th cap during the Rio Games, making her the first goalie in international soccer history to do so.
Midfielder Megan Rapinoe, forward Alex Morgan and defenders Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn are set for their second Olympic appearances. Rapinoe’s inclusion was in doubt after she underwent ACL surgery in December, but she proved her fitness at training camp last week.
The youngest on the squad will be forward Mallory Pugh, an 18-year-old who will be the second-youngest American to play Olympic soccer since 1904, according to sports-reference.com. She’ll be 18 years, 3 months and 5 days old when the Games start; Cindy Parlow was 18 years, 2 months and 13 days old to start the 1996 Olympics. Parlow, however, didn’t score, meaning Pugh could be come the youngest U.S. player with a goal in the Olympics.
Here’s a look at the full Rio roster by position:
Goalies: Alyssa Naeher, Hope Solo
Defenders: Whitney Engen, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn
Midfielders: Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd, Allie Long, Megan Rapinoe
Forwards: Crystal Dunn, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh
Of the 18 going to Rio, 14 were members of the 2015 World Cup championship squad.
“We’ve got excellent balance in the squad, and with some injuries lately to some major players, it has allowed us to get experience for a few newer players which helped them in their cases to make the team,” Ellis said in a release. “Now the task is getting our team 100 percent healthy and finalizing our preparations during the next camp.”
Christie Rampone, 41, was bidding for a fifth Olympics and to become the oldest Olympic soccer player ever, according to sports-reference.com, but December knee surgery dashed her hopes.
Heather O’Reilly was looking to compete on her fourth Olympic team, but she was named only as an alternate, along with goalie Ashlyn Harris, defender Emily Sonnett and midfielder Samantha Mewis.
The U.S. women will be among the teams to open the Rio Games on Aug. 3, two days before the Opening Ceremony, when they take on New Zealand in Belo Horizonte.