Next Wednesday, the USWNT 10-game Victory Tour stops in Seattle for a friendly against Brazil. Seattle Reign stars Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe are included in the 31-person roster, which should come as a surprise to nobody. Not only has Hope has waited her whole career to play a match at CenturyLink Field, both she and Rapinoe are some of the most important players on the USWNT roster.
The new names are what's most surprising, as coach Jill Ellis added seven players to the roster that will face Brazil in back-to-back matches. These names include two women playing in Europe: 30-year-old centerback Gina Lewandowski (FC Bayern Munich) and 21-year-old Lindsey Horan, who has had three stellar seasons with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).
Other call-ups include NWSL players Jaelene Hinkle (Western NY Flash), Samantha Mewis (Western NY Flash), Christine Nairn (Washington Spirit), and Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston Breakers). The final addition is University of Virginia defender Emily Sonnett.
Fans have been pushing for years for the USWNT to branch out and reward players who are performing well on club teams—honoring them with the chance to suit up for the Red, White, and Blue. Our own sidereal wrote a fantastic piece earlier this year on the lack of player rotation on the USWNT. These roster additions are an encouraging step in that direction, especially with a number of USWNT veterans either retiring or edging toward the final days of their careers.
Despite this good news, questions remain, the primary one being: will these players get any meaningful time during the final six friendlies? With the Olympics just around the corner, Ellis has said she's looking for more center midfielders and centerbacks. These friendlies give her a chance to test new players in these roles and see who blends in well with the team.
With that in mind, what's perhaps most disappointing from a Reign perspective is the lack of Keelin Winters on the expanded roster. The USWNT have struggled to find a defensive midfielder, and Winters has been a key cog in arguably the best midfield in the NWSL.
What's more, if Ellis is searching for depth at centerback, might I present NWSL Defender of the Year nominee Lauren Barnes? While it is great to see college senior Emily Sonnett get a call-up, Barnes—still a young 26—has demonstrated she has the calm presence and positional awareness needed to play at the national level.
There's certainly still time for Winters or Barnes to break through, and for Bev Yanez to get a look, but having the opportunity to suit up at CenturyLink would have been a special moment for these Reign players. The good news is Jill Ellis seems serious about investing in youth talent and giving opportunities to NWSL players who are excelling with their club teams. Here's hoping it's not just lip service, and that after the Victory Tour ends in December, Jill gets serious about the future of the U.S. Women's National Team.
If you're interested in seeing Rapinoe and Solo take on Marta and Brazil on October 21, tickets are still available.
Here's the full roster for the USWNT friendlies against Brazil:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (12): Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Whitney Engen (Western NY Flash), Jaelene Hinkle (Western NY Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Houston Dash), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Gina Lewandowski (FC Bayern Munich), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Univ. of Virginia)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Shannon Boxx (unattached), Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lauren Holiday (FC Kansas City), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Western NY Flash), Christine Nairn (Washington Spirit), Heather O'Reilly (FC Kansas City), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
FORWARDS (7): Lindsey Horan (Paris Saint-Germain), Sydney Leroux (Western NY Flash), Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Abby Wambach (unattached)