Club: Washington (D.C.) Spirit
Playing in her first World Cup, the 31-year-old from Cincinnati, Ohio, was named the National Women's Soccer League Goalkeeper of the Year in 2021 and enrolled in an MBA program at Virginia's Shenandoah University. The Wake Forest grad—whose twin sister Amber also played keeper at Brown and —went by her maiden name, Bledsoe, before marrying Matt Kingsbury in December 2021.
"I had my first call-up, end of 2019, as Aubrey Bledsoe, but I never made a game-day roster," she reminisced with a laugh on the Sports Spectrum podcast, "so I never saw Bledsoe on the back of a kit or anything. And then I became Aubrey Kingsbury and the call-ups started coming a little more frequently, and I got my name on the jersey. So, yeah, I give him a lot of credit, changing my last name and then it took off from there!"
Kingsbury is also a longtime athlete ambassador for Compassion International, a faith-based organization fighting child poverty.
Club: North Carolina Courage
The 6-foot-1 Rutgers alum called making her first World Cup roster at 27 a dream come true. "I remember watching the national team from a really young age," she told WRAL. "A lot of big names came out of New Jersey, and that's where I was born and raised. Now, being on that team, yeah, it's pretty awesome."
Murphy has been engaged to two-time national finalist javelin thrower Chris Mirabelli, who trains with the Garden State Track Club, since 2021 and they seem to have hinted about a fall 2023 wedding. For his fiancée's birthday last year, Mirabelli shouted out "the happiest, intense, and most down to earth person I know (in that order)."
Club: Chicago Red Stars
Position: Goalkeeper (Fun fact: Both she and Kingsbury have soccer-playing twin sisters.)
The 35-year-old national team veteran played every minute of their championship run at the 2019 World Cup. And she's ready for a repeat (or threepeat for the team overall), telling KTVU, "We've been planning and preparing for the last four years for this moment."
Asked if she meant to look angry when she's at her post after her clutch saves secured the U.S. women's penalty shootout win over the Netherlands at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (in 2021), the Penn State grad told Dan Patrick—"I don't think it's meant to come off as anger, but more of a focus kind of thing, staying in the zone. I guess that's my zone face."
Club: OL Reign
"What you see is what you get," the 26-year-old from Worcester, Mass., told TIME at the USWNT media day in June. "I pretty much am, on and off the field, the same person. I do tend to play pretty calm, pretty poised, and I think that's exactly who I am off the field."
For starters, art admittedly isn't her thing, but Cook illustrated her enthusiasm over making her first World Cup roster in an interview for Volkswagen's "Meet the 23" series, each one featuring a team member coloring. Lately, she had been paddleboarding and enjoying the Pacific Northwest summer. "All 17 days of it," the Stanford grad quipped.
Training her year-old rescue dog Bo—"a prolific jumper," she noted—was also bringing her great joy, as was the team's decision to designate his birthday May 14, the same as midfielder Rose Lavelle. "They cuddled the whole night away," Cook said.
Club: Portland Thorns
The 31-year-old University of North Carolina grad, the only member of the U.S. team to start all six matches at the Tokyo Olympics, returns to national action as a mom to 14-month-old Marcel, her son with former Thorns trainer Pierre Soubrier. They married in 2018 and are also co-founders of consulting firm PCSWellness.
"What an incredible journey it has been!" Dunn posted on Sept. 9, 2022, back in her Thorns uniform a stunning 112 days after giving birth. "Gameday looks a bit different!"
"In terms of confidence and kind of owning it, I always try to 'fake it till you make it,'" the 25-year-old UNC alum (here with sister Lauren Fox) told BGN in 2021 as the prospect of starting for the USWNT was about to become a reality. "So, if you act confident, if you act like you belong there, your body kind of emulates that. And so, I think for me, I just kept telling myself, 'You've done this before, you've been here before.'"
Club: San Diego Wave
After graduating from Stanford with a degree in symbolic systems, the 23-year-old from San Jose, Calif., stayed on to get her master's in management science and engineering while also going No. 1 in the 2022 NWSL Draft and and joining the Wave. "None of my success would be possible without the community around me," Girma, whose father developed his lifelong love of soccer playing recreationally in his native Ethiopia, told Sports Illustrated.
"My parents didn't know anything about the [American] systems—because they hadn't lived it themselves, hadn't gone to high school here," she explained. "It was a lot of getting help from other people, who'd tell you things like, you need to get a good SAT score, that kind of thing. When you're a first-generation kid, you're figuring out a lot of it through friends, through my parents asking around."
Ahead of the World Cup, Girma shared how she would be honoring her late Stanford teammate Katie Meyer, who died by suicide, through a partnership with the organization Common Goal to highlight mental health awareness.
The 30-year-old from Boise, Idaho, is the only member of the current U.S. squad to have also played for Mexico, her father's home country, on the national stage. She and teammate Ashley Sanchez are also the only Mexican-Americans ever to play for Team USA at a World Cup other than Stephanie Cox in 2007.
Huerta's decision to join La Tri in 2012 was admittedly hastened by not being selected for the FIFA U-20 World Cup roster. And when she left to join the U.S. team two years later, the Santa Clara University grad recalled on NBC Sports' My New Favorite Futbolista podcast, the home crowd in Mexico was not happy.
But overall, Huerta continued, "What an awesome opportunity I have to be Mexican-American. Because as cliché as it sounds, I think we all agree that if you could see it, you can be it. And so I think for any little girl or boy who's from the community who sees my last name now, they'll believe that they can do it."
She wished boyfriend and travel buddy Spencer Wadsworth, the senior VP of Global Soccer for Wasserman Media Group, a happy birthday in May, writing, "You make life so much fun. So thankful for you today and everyday."
The 34-year-old Stanford alum and Just Women's Sports podcast host was overwhelmed with emotion when she found out she'd made her fourth World Cup team. "Obviously you can tell what this means to me," she tearfully told USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski (in a moment captured by AT&T), "but I'm so thankful and so excited."
In any case, 2023 had already started off smashingly for O'Hara, who got engaged to partner Kameryn Stanhouse on New Year's Eve.
"If I'm somebody that people can look to and see somebody living their life exactly how they want to be living their life, and it gives them confidence to do the same," O'Hara said on the Olympic Channel Podcast in June, "that's an amazing thing to be."
For starters, the 29-year-old's Instagram bio is pure gold: "Lactose tolerant - Sit down comedian." The Georgia native, who made her World Cup debut in 2019 (and also has a soccer-playing twin, Emma), told Dirty South Soccer that her pregame ritual was eating banana pancakes. Her dream job, aside from what she was already doing, was food critic. And asked if she could pick a superpower, Sonnett replied, "Speed-reading, because with all my extra time without school I read a lot of books, I just want to read faster. That makes me sound smart right?"
She left University of Virginia a semester early to turn pro in 2016 but eventually finished her degree in sociology, so that also sounds smart.
Club: Racing Louisville
The 25-year-old, who made her World Cup debut in the team's opening match against Vietnam, was a surprise addition to the roster, having never earned a cap with the national squad. But having been to past training camps, the USC grad was ready when she got the call.
"Just being around the girls has been huge," DeMelo told Just Women's Sports, "being able to form relationships, friendships...Being able to get comfortable in that environment helped me tremendously."
Club: Angel City
Pressing pause on a distinguished career that included two World Cups and the 2016 Rio Olympics, Ertz took 18 months off from soccer to focus on starting a family with her husband, Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz. They welcomed son Madden last August—and Ertz signed with Angel City as a free agent in April.
Aware that she needed to be in peak condition if she hoped to make it into this World Cup, she started training in February with the under-19 guys from the United Soccer League's Phoenix Rising.
"Even on the first day of training that we had with her, she was in the best shape out of all of us," UVA-bound Luke Burns, 17, told the New York Times. "She would do extra sprints after practice. She would do these little things to become a bit better. And it showed me that if I wanted to go to the professional level, I have to do those extra things as well."
Of making the national squad again, Ertz said, "I know the expectation and standards that this team has. And I didn't want to go into any camp if I wasn't feeling like I could actually compete."
The 29-year-old team co-captain has now scored goals in consecutive World Cups, putting the ball in the net in the squad's 2023 opener against Vietnam.
"Last World Cup, maybe I didn't know my place or role as well," she told Goal.com ahead of the tournament, "so there were a lot more nerves in me with just making the roster and then trying to still fit in and find my place in the team and also impact the team...I'm more of a leader this World Cup, an older player, so I kind of have to be that one that helps the ones with those nerves and I have a little bit more responsibility on my end, so it's exciting."
But Horan also arrived in New Zealand with extra spring in her step: Fiancé Tyler Heaps proposed on June 16. "My heart is, and always will be, yours," she posted a few days later.
Or, it could be the caffeine. Emily Sonnett, who played with BFF Horan on the Portland Thorns for years, told Dirty South Soccer that a day off would usually find the two of them searching for their next great cup of joe. "When we have a day off I usually try to go and see a little bit more of Portland, but usually I would say, it comes to us trying to find the best coffee," Sonnett shared. "Because we love coffee, so much."
Aside from sharing a birthday with Alana Cook's pup Bo, the 28-year-old University of Wisconsin grad is sister to English bulldog Wilma Jean Wrinkles.
"I think I like to be creative and unpredictable," she told ESPN FC's Futbol Americas before leaving for New Zealand to play in her second World Cup. "That's my favorite part of the game, doing the unexpected."
"I think I started crying before I even saw Vlatko's face on the FaceTime, just because everything was coming into that moment," the 32-year-old Boston College alum told Just Women's Sports about finding out she'd made her first World Cup roster. "I feel like I've been waiting my whole life to hear those words."
She said her first calls were to her parents, younger sister Sam Mewis, a midfielder for the Kansas City Strikers, and girlfriend Samantha Kerr, a forward for Chelsea and star of the Australian national team. And yes, there are scenarios in which the U.S. meets Australia in the final or third-place match.
"Last time I'll cheer for you is today," Kerr wrote on Instagram in otherwise congratulating Mewis' good news.
Club: Washington Spirit
Like Sofia Huerta, the Pasadena, Calif., native is proud to be one of just a few Mexican-American players ever to represent Team USA in the World Cup.
"At the beginning, I didn't realize how big of a deal [it] was," Sanchez said on the My New Favorite Futbolista podcast, explaining that at UCLA she had teammates who were Mexican and some who were of mixed heritage, as she is. "And they were totally supportive and weren't like, 'You're not Mexican,'" she recalled. "And I think that really helped me to embrace it more."
In her "Meet the 23" interview, Sanchez introduced her French bulldog Nala. "She's friendly, she loves everyone," the athlete said. "She has no preference, which sometimes sucks for me 'cause she'll, like, run to anyone."
Enjoying her first World Cup roster spot, the 27-year-old Stanford alum named retired soccer legend Abby Wambach, whose 14 World Cup goals are the most in U.S. history, as her favorite player to watch. "She was so tenacious and had this palpable energy about her, and this willingness to win," Sullivan told Just Women's Sports. "You could tell that she was connected with her teammates and that she was important...She was a goal-scoring machine and that's not quite my style or my forte, but I think that mentality, I just admired it in her so much and loved seeing it."
In another pitch-perfect match, Sullivan has been married to Drew Skundrich, a midfielder for the USL's Colorado Springs Switchbacks, since December 2019 and they share two dogs.
Club: San Diego WavePosition: Forward and co-captain
What to say about the UC Berkeley alum, who's playing in her fourth World Cup and has been to three Olympics, two of them gold? At 34, she's one of the most familiar faces of U.S. soccer, full stop, and has put her platform to use, helping secure equal pay for the women's national team, writing books to inspire girls and young women, and serving as a UNICEF Kid Power Champion.
"I want to continue to demand excellence of myself, and I want to do things that my family and my daughter would be proud of," Morgan said in an interview for World Cup sponsor BODYARMOR SportWater. "Fighting for gender equality, fighting for human rights, fighting for [the] LGBTQ community, those are really passionate things that I care about, that are meaningful. You only get a short period of time to feel like your voice is being heard by an incredible amount of people."
Morgan has been married to soccer player Servando Carrasco in 2014 and they share 3-year-old daughter Charlie. And in February, she became the highest-scoring mom in USWNT history after notching her 14th goal during the U.S.' 2-1 win against Brazil in the SheBelieves Cup championship game.
The 38-year-old may need no introduction after having spent the last few years passionately advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, spearheading the fight for equal pay with Morgan and fellow soccer stars, and otherwise speaking out whenever a cause calls to her. In 2018, Rapinoe and partner Sue Bird became the first same-sex couple to appear on the cover of ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue, and Rapinoe was the first openly gay women ever featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 2019. However, she'd already enjoyed the milestone that was having a corn maze shaped like her face mowed into a field in Anderson, Calif.
"I see myself as an entertainer as well as an athlete, probably more the former than the latter," Rapinoe told Harvard Business Review in 2020. "So I just revel in those moments: having that huge crowd with all those crazy fans and millions watching on TV, being in the spotlight when so often women in sports are not. That's an incredible stage to be on. It's fun."
Rapinoe said before embarking on her fourth World Cup that she plans to retire at the end of the 2023 NWSL season, joining Bird for a next chapter after the NBA super-star's own retirement last year.
Acknowledging that she was pretty much born confident, Rapinoe also told HBR, "I've been very lucky to be on incredible teams that win, which gives you positive feelings. And I get honest feedback from people I really, really love: my mom; my sister; my partner, Sue; and my teammates, who don't care if I'm famous and give it to me real."
The 21-year-old from Newport Beach, Calif., was going to attend Washington State but then her freshman season was canceled due to the pandemic and she decided to turn pro. She helped the Spirit win their first NWSL championship and now, here she is, playing in the World Cup. In a July Instagram post, boyfriend Chris Kuzemka, who plays basketball for the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds, sported a T-shirt with Rodman's face on it, writing, "Stay true to you."
And yes, her dad is Dennis Rodman, though she was primarily raised by mom Michelle Moyer. While she learned a lot about competition and athleticism from watching videos of her father's NBA days, they aren't close and she didn't hear from him when she made the World Cup team.
"Like I've said before, I've gotten closure with it all," Rodman told the LA Times before she headed to New Zealand. "I know he's proud of me. I truly do. He has his own things to deal with but at the end of the day, he's communicated to me that he knows I was going to be here, and that's all I need."
The reigning league MVP and 2022 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year actually doesn't love being called the future of her sport.
"Right now is right now," the 22-year-old told Just Women's Sports. "I feel like I've proven myself, right now in this moment, that I can impact the team, at both the club and country level. I don't love 'the future' saying because I feel like I can do this right now. I know I'm young but I don't think age really has anything to do with it. You're seeing younger and younger players coming into the league and having impacts on their team."
Speaking of impact, Smith was also by her sweetheart-since-Stanford Michael Wilson's side when he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in April, so there's been a lot to cheer for lately all around.
And when she scored her second goal during the World Cup opener against Vietnam, Smith mimed "zip your lips" in honor of late college teammate Meyer, who made the gesture after making a title-winning save for the Cardinal at the 2019 NCAA College Cup. "We said if one of us scored—probably her [Smith]—then we'd do that," Naomi Girma told reporters afterward. "It's just another way of honoring her."
Drafted No. 1 in January before she had even finished high school, Thompson made it worth Angel City's while by scoring five minutes into her first professional game. And while the 18-year-old turned down a Stanford scholarship, she did not pass up on her chance to be the youngest player on the USWNT's 2023 World Cup roster.
"It just kind of shows that everything that I've done up until this point has gotten me to this moment," Thompson told the LA Times. "I didn't know it would happen so soon. It's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
For her, probably not.
After Thompson's first game with the national team last October at London's Wembley Stadium, Rapinoe marveled over the teen's talent and poise.
"I could like literally be her mom and like, not her teen mom—so that's wild!" she told reporters, laughing, per Goal.com. "I think she did great coming in. I mean, it's just a ridiculous experience. I ask her like a couple times a day, 'Are you just like, "What the f--k is going on?" You're playing in this massive game at such a young age.'"
Seven years after first being called up to the national team, Williams is making her World Cup debut at 30.
"I never take it for granted anytime I get to put on that jersey," she told Boardroom TV in June after getting the call. "My fiancé is Australian, so my extended family is there. Australia just holds a special place in my heart in general, and then obviously being able to play down there...I think that they are gonna put on an amazing World Cup and grow their soccer viewership tenfold. That's what the world needs."
Her fiancé is Marley Biyendolo, whom she met while playing for California's Pepperdine University, and in her sorta-spare time, Williams hosts the podcast Snacks with Sam Mewis.