Before the top-ranked U.S. women’s soccer team plays nemesis Sweden next month in an Olympic showdown, coach Vlatko Andonovski faces the biggest challenge since taking charge of the national team 20 months ago.
He must whittle down a talent-rich field to 18 players who can win the Olympic gold medal in Japan but also pivot toward the 2023 World Cup.
“This is one of the toughest 18-player Olympic rosters ever,” said Leslie Osborne, a former Santa Clara University star and U.S. national team midfielder.
The Americans defeated Nigeria 2–0 on Wednesday to conclude a three-game summer series in Texas that served as an audition for some players on the roster bubble.
Andonovski needs to get it right for the United States to become the first country to win the Women’s World Cup and Olympics titles back to back.
While World Cup rosters are 23 strong, the Olympics permit five fewer players, a limitation that forces Andonovski into stressful decisions with the announcement expected in the coming week.
Julie Ertz, a former Santa Clara University star, celebrates winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)It seems the coaching staff has decided on 15 players. The final choices depend on the health of two stars, starting with defensive midfielder Julie Ertz. The former Santa Clara University standout suffered a medial collateral ligament injury in her right knee on May 16.
The United States does not have a ready…