There are, in my estimation, two ways by which the United States women's national team can make the year 2023 a success: they can either win a third-straight World Cup this summer or they can find a way to get Becky Sauerbrunn her first international goal.
The first of these feels unfair. No team, women's or men's, has ever won three consecutive World Cups.
But it's the nature of the USWNT's recent dominance that anything less will be a disappointment, even though it probably shouldn't be. Though the U.S. women are still listed in some places as the betting favorites, it’s clear that the team is still unsure of what the best version of itself looks like. It's putting an awful lot of weight on Catarina Macario to return from injury and solve the team's chance creation issues. And its midfield balance issues. And its transition defense issues.
It is possible the U.S. will win the 2023 World Cup, but I don't think it's likely. The field of contenders has expanded, and while the Americans have not been crowded out of it, other teams appear to be closer to their peaks, fine-tuning where the U.S. might still need to be overhauling. The USWNT lost to England, Spain and Germany consecutively less than a year before the tournament. What happens if it has to beat two of those and longtime nemesis Sweden in the knockout rounds this summer?
And so, it's worth investing some emotional energy in a backup plan.