What now for USWNT after shocking 2023 Women’s World Cup exit?

United States’ Megan Rapinoe, right, reacts with her teammates following their loss to Sweden in their Women’s World Cup round of 16 soccer match in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Scott Barbour)

Where to now?

A penalty shootout loss to Sweden in the Round of 16 has ended the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) short run at the 2023 Women’s World Cup without any silverware for the first time since 2011. 

After a mediocre group stage showing, the US performed well against the Swedes in Melbourne on Sunday. It was not enough, however, to book their place in the quarterfinals. The USWNT will have many questions in the coming months about the future of the squad and its management after a campaign in which they only won one match. 

The initial reaction after the match was a contrast between pure elation and devastation as a swarm of Swedish yellow jerseys rushed to the sideline to celebrate. The USWNT was gutted after 120 minutes of football and a penalty shootout that was decided by a matter of inches.

There will inevitably be fallout in the coming months. Players will retire, the manager’s faith will be decided, new players will come in, and the focus will turn to four years’ time. 

USWNT Sweden
United States’ players react after losing their Women’s World Cup round of 16 soccer match against Sweden in a penalty shootout in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

Megan Rapinoe’s reaction was one of disappointment and then acceptance. Rapinoe – a stalwart of the team for a decade – had just played her final match in the Stars and Stripes. She announced that this would be her final World Cup when she arrived in Australia before the opening match against Vietnam. Having missed her penalty on Sunday, Rapinoe was tearful on the pitch afterward but also grateful for her illustrious career in the red, white, and blue.

“This is the balance to the beautiful side of the game. I think it can be cruel,”  she told Fox Soccer. “Just not our day, but I still just feel really grateful and joyful. I know it’s the end and that’s sad. But to know that this is really the only time I’ve been able to be in one of these (penalty shootouts) this early. It says so much about how much success I’ve been able to have and how much I loved playing for this team and playing for this country, it’s been an honor.”

Julie Ertz may have also played her last game for the USWNT on Sunday. The two-time World Cup winner was emotional after the loss.  

“We’re proud of the way we played but we didn’t put anything in the back of the net,” Ertz said. “The penalties were tough as well. For me, it’s just emotional because it’s probably my last game ever being able to have the honor to wear this crest.

“It’s an honor to represent this team and I’m excited for the future of the girls.” 

The future may be bright for the USWNT, regardless. Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Naomi Girma, Emily Fox, and Alyssa Thompson are all under the age of 25. This should make for a strong young core for the 2027 Women’s World Cup when the USWNT will hope to recapture their crown.

The blame ultimately will fall on the management team, led by Vlatko Andonovski. The manager has alluded to how young this team is and how bright the future is. His future, on the other hand, is uncertain after an underwhelming campaign Down Under.

“Look at this team. Five players that started the game are [playing for] their first time in the tournament,” Andonovski said after the loss, “Young players, Naomi Girma, Emily Fox, Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, these are players that will be here for years to come and tournaments to come. This tournament is a great experience for them and I think they’ll dominate the next one together with players who unfortunately couldn’t make it like Mel Pugh and Catarina Macario. This team’s got a very bright future and I’m glad we could give them the opportunity that we did.”

Odds to win the 2023 Women’s World Cup

  • England +225
  • Spain +300
  • Japan +500
  • France +650
  • Sweden +750
  • Netherlands +1100

Odds courtesy of DraftKings. For more, click here.

For more on the USWNT, visit AMNY.com

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