Three days removed from a 5-0 victory against the Republic of Ireland after the completion of January Camp, U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis has selected 20 players for the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship to be held from Feb. 10-21 in Frisco and Houston, Texas.
“This was an exceptionally challenging roster to select,” said Ellis. “The players all worked and competed very hard in the January Camp and that made the final decisions extremely difficult.”
The roster consists of three goalkeepers, seven defenders, five midfielders and five forwards, although many of the selected players can play multiple positions.
“With only 17 field players allowed on the roster, and minimal time in between matches, I think we have one of the most versatile rosters ever for a qualifying tournament,” said Ellis. “Most of the field players are capable of playing at least two positions and as CONCACAF competitions generally present teams that will sit low and get numbers behind the ball, it is important to have players that can individually and collectively break teams down to create chances.”
The team includes 13 members of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship team and seven Olympic qualifying veterans, three of whom (Hope Solo, Tobin Heath and Carli Lloyd) took part in qualifying for the 2008 Olympics.
Lloyd leads the group with a combined nine Olympic qualifying appearances between 2008 and 2012, followed by Solo with eight games played over the same span. Lloyd and Solo also lead the team in caps with 212 and 186, respectively.
At the other end of the spectrum, 17-year-old Mallory Pugh is the youngest player to be named to a U.S. WNT Olympic qualifying roster and scored in her international debut over the weekend. Pugh is joined by seven other players with eight or fewer overall caps.
The U.S. WNT has qualified for five consecutive Olympic games and won each of the past three CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournaments. The USA has never lost a match in Olympic qualifying, but tied Canada 1-1 in the title game of the 2008 tournament before winning in penalty kicks.
With a top-two finish in the tournament, the U.S. WNT would join Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, South Africa, Zimbabwe and New Zealand, who have already qualified, in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August. The USA hopes to win gold at a fourth consecutive Olympiad and the fifth time in team history. Should the USA qualify and then come out victorious in Rio, the U.S. WNT would be the first team in international women’s soccer history to win a World Cup and Olympic gold in back-to-back years.
The USA is set to begin Olympic Qualifying group play against Costa Rica on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Follow the U.S. WNT on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat for coverage leading up to and throughout the tournament.