U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team head coach Michelle French has named the 21 players who will represent the United States at the 2016 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup, being held in Papua New Guinea from Nov. 13-Dec. 3.
The U.S. opens the tournament on Monday, Nov. 14 against France, faces New Zealand on Thursday, Nov. 17 and finishes the group against Ghana on Monday, Nov. 21. The USA will play its first two group games at PNG Football Stadium and its third group game at Sir John Guise Stadium. Both stadiums are located in Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea. All the matches will be broadcast on the FOX family of networks.
“Throughout this cycle, we have gone through an extensive process evaluating a number of players in various environments,” French said. “The final World Cup roster is comprised of players that provide great depth and versatility in every position. The way in which players competed to be a part of the roster, their commitment to be a part of this cycle, and their overall dedication to each other, has been tremendous. This group of players is highly motivated which has proven to be the impetus for their individual and collective development, particularly over the last six months.”
French officially named her squad after the completion of the most recent training camp in in Florida at which the USA defeated the Venezuela U-20 Women’s National Team twice, by 6-2 and 5-1 scores.
U.S. U-20 Women’s World Cup Team Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Rose Chandler (Penn State; Atlanta, Ga.), Brooke Heinsohn (New England FC; Norfolk, Mass.), Casey Murphy (Rutgers; Bridgewater, N.J.)
DEFENDERS (7): Madeline Elliston (Penn State; Omaha, Neb.), Emily Fox (FC Virginia; Ashburn, Va.), Sabrina Flores (Notre Dame; Livingston, N.J.), Ellie Jean (Penn State; Coventry, Conn.), Natalie Jacobs (Notre Dame; Coto de Caza, Calif.), Taylor Otto (North Carolina; Apex, N.C.), Kaleigh Riehl (Penn State; Fairfax Station, Va.)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Marley Canales (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Katie Cousins (Tennessee; Forest, Va.), Savannah DeMelo (Beach FC; Bellflower, Calif.), Kelcie Hedge (Washington; Post Falls, Idaho), Emily Ogle (Penn State; Strongsville, Ohio), Courtney Petersen (Virginia; Canton, Mich.), Parker Roberts (Florida; Leawood, Kansas)
FORWARDS (4): Ashley Sanchez (So Cal Blues: Monrovia, Calif.), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Jessie Scarpa (North Carolina; Lakeland, Fla.), Ally Watt (Texas A&M; Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Among the 21 players named are three who were a part of the USA’s 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Team. While goalkeeper Rose Chandler and defender Kaleigh Riehl did not play in Canada two years ago, they have been key players throughout the cycle. Chandler earned the Golden Glove as the best goalkeeper during the qualifying tournament and Riehl has been a steady leader of the backline during 2016.
The third is Mallory Pugh who started at the last U-20 Women’s World Cup as a 16-year-old and would go on to debut for the senior Women’s National Team at the beginning of this year. She currently has 17 caps and four goals for the WNT, which includes her goal against Colombia in the 2016 Olympics, making her the youngest American soccer player to score in an Olympic Games. After scoring four goals over the two games against Venezuela, Pugh has 23 caps and 17 goals for the U-20s. She led the team in qualifying with seven goals and four assists where she won the Golden Boot as top scorer and the Golden Ball as the best player. Pugh leads a contingent of forwards that also includes UNC junior Jessie Scarpa, who scored five times at qualifying, and the speedy Ally Watt from Texas A&M.
“I think this team is very dynamic, both on and off the field,” Pugh said. “We all have this drive when we wake up in the morning to inspire each other to get better and that’s really special. Off the field, it’s one of the most tight-knit and positive teams I’ve ever been a part of during my career. We have some big challenges ahead in PNG and we’re looking forward to them.”
Forward Ashley Sanchez, who scored three goals and captained the USA at the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan, was also named to the roster and will be the youngest player on the team and the only one born in 1999. Sanchez had three goals with five assists at the CONCACAF U-20 Qualifying tournament and scored the game-winning goal in the championship game against Canada.
The USA has a group of skillful and hard-working midfielders led by Emily Ogle, a sophomore at Penn State. All of the midfielders have extensive youth National Team experience and Marley Canales (UCLA) and Kelcie Hedge (Washington) were a part of the last U-17 WNT cycle. Katie Cousins (Tennessee), Savannah DeMelo (Beach FC), Courtney Petersen (Virginia) and Parker Roberts (Florida) add depth to the midfield.
The defensive core includes three players who were a part of the last U-17 cycle in Ellie Jean (Penn State), Taylor Otto (UNC) and Natalie Jacobs (Notre Dame). Madeline Elliston and Sabrina Flores have quite a bit of youth National Team experience and cut their teeth in college soccer last season for Penn State and Notre Dame, respectively. Emily Fox (FC Virginia) adds depth and versatility to the group of backs.
The USA has three quality goalkeepers in Casey Murphy (Rutgers), Chandler (Penn State) and Brooke Heinsohn (New England FC). Murphy and Heinsohn are both six-foot-one.
“The experience and knowledge this group of players will gain through their participation in the U-20 World Cup is extremely valuable,” French said. “Players have two opportunities at the youth level to try to qualify and compete in a World Cup, so being a part of this roster is massive. The more exposure our Youth National Team players can get to major world events, the heightened physical and emotional demands, and top international competition, the more the players will be prepared moving forward in their respective National Team careers.”
- Pugh, in her second U-20 WNT cycle, is the most capped player on the roster with 23 U-20 international matches and the top scorer with 17 goals, but 18 players on the roster have 10 or more U-20 caps.
- Thirteen players on the roster have scored international goals, including Jessie Scarpa (6), Ally Watt (5), Marley Canales (4), Ashley Sanchez (4), Kelsey Hedge (4), and Emily Fox (3).
- The roster includes five players who helped Penn State win the NCAA Championship in 2015 in defenders Kaleigh Riehl, Madeline Elliston and Ellie Jean, midfielder Emily Ogle, and Rose Chandler, who was a back-up ‘keeper.
- Seven players on the roster have yet to start college with the rest having played at least one season so far. The players who have yet to start college are UCLA commits Mallory Pugh, Marley Canales and Ashley Sanchez, goalkeeper Brooke Heinsohn who is headed to Duke, midfielder Savannah DeMelo (USC) and defenders Taylor Otto (UNC) and Emily Fox (UNC).
- Of the 20 players that helped the USA win the CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship and qualify for the World Cup last December, a tournament that was held during the college season, thus making several players unavailable, French chose 13 for the World Cup roster. Those players are: Canales, Chandler, DeMelo, Flores, Fox, Hedge, Heinsohn, Jacobs, Otto, Pugh, Roberts, Sanchez and Scarpa.
- The age cut-off date for this Women’s World Cup is players born on or after Jan. 1, 1996. Eight of the 21 players selected by French were born in 1996, eight were born in 1997, four in 1998 and one in 1999. The four 98s – DeMelo, Heinsohn, Fox and Pugh, as well as Sanchez, are age-eligible for the 2018 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in France.
- French selected two high school seniors, one college freshman (Otto), four players who have delayed their college enrollment (Pugh, Canales, DeMelo, Heinsohn), nine college sophomores and five college juniors.
- Nine different colleges are represented on the roster, led by Penn State with five players. Notre Dame and North Carolina each have two players.
- Fourteen different states are represented, led by California with four players and Virginia with three. New Jersey and Colorado have two each.
- The 16-team field for the tournament is a strong one, featuring Canada, Mexico, the USA, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Japan, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil, Venezuela, France, Germany, Spain, and Sweden.