The U.S. women’s national team will try to qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics this summer during the 2022 Concacaf W Championship. That’s a lot of events and a lot of years, I know. But the tournament format isn’t all that complicated.
The W Championship, which includes eight teams from across North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, is set to kick off on July 4 and run through July 18. The tournament’s eight teams were drawn into two groups in April of this year. The USWNT was drawn into Group A with Mexico, Jamaica, and Haiti. Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago make up Group B.
The top-two teams from each group will qualify for the Women’s World Cup and advance to the knock-out stage of the tournament. Third-place teams from each group will have a chance to qualify for the Women’s World Cup via the inter-confederation playoffs.
The tournament’s winner will also qualify for the Summer Olympics and earn a spot in the first-ever Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup, which is set to kick off in 2024. The runner-up and third-place teams of the tournament will advance to the Concacaf Olympic playoff.
Clearly, there’s a lot on the line for the USWNT.
Vlatko Andonovski and his coaching staff recently named his 23-player roster for the W Championship, along with three additional players who will be with the team for a pair of friendlies against Colombia later this month. With the USWNT at something of a generational crossroads, this tournament is a chance for Andonovski to rely on some players who maybe don’t have as much national team experience (or who have been role players in the past) but who can help fill some positions of need.
The USWNT’s roster reflects that.
Now that we know the roster, let’s dive a little deeper into two players who could feature at the Concacaf W Championship and one player who we might see in those friendlies against Colombia.
All statistics courtesy of American Soccer Analysis and represent games through Week 6 of the NWSL regular season.
MARGARET PURCE, W, NJ/NY GOTHAM FC
Purce is an incredibly fun attacking player. What’s interesting about Purce’s story with the national team, though, is that the USWNT staff has seemingly been trying to decide if she’s a defender or a forward. Personally, I think Purce shines when she’s part of the USWNT’s front line, but the fact that she can play in the back only adds depth to the roster.
Though Purce missed out on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics when she was left off the final squad (and wasn’t named an alternate), she still has some experience. Through 14 appearances for the USWNT, Purce has scored three goals and assisted three more.
As a winger for Gotham, Purce has recorded a goals added (g+) per 96’ value of 0.26, which is third in the NWSL when considering players who have notched at least 300 minutes. Her shooting (0.20) and receiving (0.06) g+ values are also good for second in the league. She has scored twice and assisted once through five games with Gotham in 2022, and in 2021, she was tied for the second-most goals scored (9) with Houston’s Rachel Daly and OL Reign’s Bethany Balcer.
Given that she’s appeared in all five games for the USWNT in 2022, Purce will almost certainly play a part for the U.S. in some big upcoming games. Still, with plenty of other very talented attackers in the mix, the coaching staff’s lineup decisions aren’t going to be easy.
NAOMI GIRMA, CB, SAN DIEGO WAVE FC
Like their midfield, the USWNT’s backline will look a little different in this tournament than it has in the past. Abby Dahlkemper (rib injury), Crystal Dunn (maternity leave), and Tierna Davidson (knee injury) are unavailable for qualifying, and other players will have to step up and fill these holes.
Girma will be one of those players.
Girma, who was selected first overall by the Wave in the 2022 NWSL Draft, has quickly become a mainstay in San Diego’s defense. She’s calm and composed and excels at defending one-v-one and distributing the ball from the back. Through the first eight games of the NWSL regular season, Girma boasts the best passing score per 96’ in the league (3.05) and also has the highest touch percentage (11.4%) of all Wave players.
These performances earned her a call-up to the USWNT roster in April and her first-ever USWNT appearance on April 12 against Uzbekistan.
While I don’t necessarily think Girma will find herself in a starting role for the USWNT during this tournament, I do think she’ll add some depth to the CB position that will likely be filled by Portland Thorns FC’s Becky Sauerbrunn and OL Reign’s Alana Cook.
BONUS: SAM COFFEY, DM, PORTLAND THORNS FC
It’s no surprise that the holding midfield position is a big question mark for the USWNT. Julie Ertz (maternity leave) and Sam Mewis (leg injury) are unavailable for this tournament, leaving Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, and Andi Sullivan as the only ‘true’ veterans in the midfield for the United States.
With that said, though, between the Washington Spirit’s grueling schedule and Sullivan’s return from injury, it will be important for Andonovski to add depth in the defensive midfield position.
Enter Sam Coffey, who is going to be part of the USWNT’s training camp roster and could feature in their upcoming games against Colombia.
Coffey was the 12th pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft out of Penn State, and has appeared in all seven of the Thorns’ regular season matches so far. She’s leading all NWSL defensive midfielders that have recorded at least 300 minutes in g+ per 96’ (0.06) along with OL Reign’s Jess Fishlock, who’s in her 10th NWSL season. Portland captain and Canadian legend Christine Sinclair was onto something when she said that Coffey’s been playing like she’s a 10-year veteran of the NWSL, despite being a rookie.
Though she didn’t make the cut for the final 23-player roster, Coffey is definitely a player to watch in the No. 6 role in the coming years.