Mallory Swanson returns to USWNT as training player ahead of W Gold Cup


U.S. women’s national team coach Twila Kilgore has named her 23-player roster for the upcoming CONCACAF W Gold Cup, with three additional training players that will participate in the pre-tournament camp, including forward Mallory Swanson. This will be Swanson’s official return to the national team environment following her recovery from a torn patellar tendon last April.

“Mal will come in and be Mal. We’re thrilled to have her back in the camp environment,” Kilgore said. “We know that in anything that Mal’s doing, she brings a really high level of professionalism, a high level of execution. We believe she’s absolutely ready for the step, and she’s just a really important leader in this team.”

The roster is largely unchanged from the team’s final friendlies of 2023 against China in December, with the notable returns of goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (who could earn her 100th cap during the Gold Cup) and defender Crystal Dunn. Veterans Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan, who were not on the December roster, are notable absences this camp.

“We have quite a few players that are not in camp that we’re still looking at and evaluating in terms of leading up to the Olympics. Nobody is out of the mix. That goes for some of our bigger names. That goes for lesser names that we’ve been tracking. We want to get it right,” Kilgore said. “In terms of Alex — I guess this goes for really everybody that’s not here — everything that happens in the Gold Cup will matter in terms of the future and everything that is happening outside of the Gold Cup will matter in the future.”

In a new twist following a busy NWSL offseason, NJ/NY Gotham FC now leads the way in NWSL representation with seven players: defenders Dunn, Tierna Davidson, and Jenna Nighswonger; midfielders Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett; and forwards Midge Purce and Lynn Williams. Since the last USWNT roster, six players have signed with new clubs.

Midfielder Savannah DeMelo and defender Gisele Thompson are the two other non-rostered players who will train with the USWNT. Gisele Thompson, younger sister to forward Alyssa Thompson, recently signed with Angel City FC and has earned her first senior team call-up. While it’s limited to the training environment, the nod is another positive sign for Gisele Thompson building on her youth national team experience.

“This is just a good opportunity for Gisele to get a firsthand look at what the environment is actually like,” Kilgore said. “Obviously, she’s starting her career in the NWSL, so she’s got a lot of firsts but I think this is an important piece for her to understand what she’s working towards.”

Goalkeepers (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders (8): Alana Cook (Seattle Reign FC), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC), Crystal Dunn ((NY/NJ Gotham FC) Tierna Davidson (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Emily Fox (Arsenal), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Casey Krueger (Washington Spirit), Jenna Nighswonger (NY/NJ Gotham FC)

Midfielders (6): Korbin Albert (PSG), Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Rose Lavelle (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Olivia Moultrie (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (NJ/NY Gotham FC)

Forwards (6): Mia Fishel (Chelsea FC), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Jaedyn Shaw (San Diego Wave FC), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (NJ/NY Gotham FC)

How to watch the Gold Cup

The inaugural W Gold Cup features 12 teams, eight from CONCACAF and four guest nations: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay. In the U.S., CBS holds the rights to the tournament, with every match available on Paramount+.

The USWNT will play all three group stage matches at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. All games kick off at 7:15 p.m. PT/10:15 p.m. ET:

  • vs. Guyana/Dominican Republic (winner of prelim. match), Tuesday, Feb. 20
  • vs. Argentina, Friday, Feb. 23
  • vs. Mexico, Monday, Feb. 26

The 12 teams are split into three groups of four. The top two finishers of each group, plus the two best third-place teams (that’s eight teams total) advance to the quarterfinals at BMO Stadium in LA. The quarterfinals will be seeded based on results, with 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, etc.

The four winners will head to San Diego and Snapdragon Stadium for the semifinals and final, with the tournament wrapping up on March 10.

“Not only is there a trophy on the line, but this is a great opportunity to capitalize on meaningful match opportunities and experience the short turnarounds between games, which is a rhythm that closely mirrors the Olympic format,” Kilgore said in the press release.

The games are meaningful, but they’re also the first of the year. The team will likely treat this as an extended preseason and that should be the biggest takeaway; if they go through to the final, that’s a lot of time together on training fields and earning game minutes. They probably won’t be the prettiest games, but it’s still going to be a lot of data for everyone — including incoming head coach Emma Hayes. The tricky balance that Kilgore and the squad are going to have to hit is acknowledging the pressure of that looming Olympics roster while trying out new tactics and combinations.

Forward momentum

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Fishel and Shaw scored their first USWNT senior team goals last year. (Photo by Brad Smith, Getty Images for USSF)

Everyone (including me) was rightfully excited about the rosters for the December friendlies. Seeing the continuity between the two camps isn’t that surprising, but what’s most exciting is the chance to see players like Jaedyn Shaw and Mia Fishel become expected names on a USWNT roster — and candidates to get some starts too.

If there’s one thing that’s going to unite everyone in excitement, it’s seeing Swanson inch closer to a full national team return. Before her injury last April, Swanson was in electric form. Despite her extended absence, Swanson led the team in goals (7) last year. There’s no need to push her back ahead of the Olympics since anyone involved with the USWNT already knows exactly what she brings to the mix, so allowing her to get back into form via the NWSL is the right thing to do.

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I wrote after the December friendlies that the team had acquired the wins not “in perfect fashion, but in a way that told us something about the direction and immediate future of the project ahead of the Olympics.” Those games were also relatively quiet, with smaller attendance numbers and limited press coverage.

We’re in an Olympic year now, though. It’s not quite the same as a World Cup year, and the players still have a few months yet to build out of the spotlight. When Emma Hayes gets here, all bets are off. For now, the Gold Cup could be important in getting the small stuff in order.

(Photo: Sam Hodde/Getty Images)





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