Power rankings: The USWNT's top 20 most important players

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Ahead of the 2019 World Cup, Goal ranks the USA's most valuable performers

  1. Mike Comer

    #20 Morgan Brian - midfielder

    Brian was seen as the future of the USWNT midfield when she started the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal, semifinal and final at age 22. Since then though, injuries and ineffectiveness have seen Brian fail to really kick on and become a locked-in USWNT starter. Brian appears to be in real danger of missing the World Cup squad after being omitted from the SheBelieves Cup roster. 
  2. Getty Images

    #19 Jessica McDonald - forward

    McDonald is a late arrival on the USWNT scene, having only recently made the breakthrough to the national team at age 30. But the NC Courage forward has a real shot to make the World Cup roster as one of the few options in the player pool to back up Alex Morgan at the target forward position.
  3. Grant Halverson

    #18 McCall Zerboni - midfielder

    Zerboni became the oldest player to make her USWNT debut when she took the field against Korea in October 2017 at age 31. Since then, the previously overlooked central midfielder has developed into a key option off the bench for Jill Ellis. An elbow injury in September slowed down her progress, but Zerboni has returned to the fold and is in line to make the World Cup roster. 
  4. Ian MacNicol

    #17 Emily Sonnett - defender

    Sonnett has been in the USWNT picture since her college days, but the first overall pick of the 2016 NWSL draft really solidified her spot on the team in 2018. The 25-year-old is one of the top defenders in NWSL, where she plays as a center back for the Portland Thorns. With the U.S., she's slotted in mostly as a fullback.
  5. Getty

    #16 Carli Lloyd - forward

    Lloyd has embraced a new role as she enters the twilight of her USWNT career. Once a free-roaming midfielder, the 36-year-old is now almost exclusively a striker. Lloyd is sometimes paired with Alex Morgan but more often she is the team's first option off the bench to spell the team's star striker.
  6. Getty Images

    #15 Sam Mewis - midfielder

    Mewis is a solid two-way contributor who uses her 5′ 11″ frame to impose herself on opponents, and can pick a pass or finish from distance when she gets into the final third. Mewis saw her opportunities reduced in 2018 and in early 2019 but she broke through at the SheBelieves Cup, particularly against Brazil, and many are eager to see her in a more prominent role in the team's three-player midfield. 
  7. Getty

    #14 Mallory Pugh - winger

    Pugh burst onto the scene at age 17, when she made her first appearance for the USWNT. At the time, she was expected to be one of the USA's most crucial players by the time the 2019 World Cup rolled around, but that hasn't quite happened. The 20-year-old has shown flashes over the past few years, but still hasn't been able to break through and become a consistent starter for Ellis' side. 
  8. Charly Triballeau

    #13 Tierna Davidson - defender

    Davidson is the best defensive prospect in the USWNT pipeline and in 2018, she went from intriguing talent to full-fledged national team regular at age 19. Now, 20, Davidson appears to be behind Abby Dahlkemper for a starting center back berth, with a role at the World Cup as a backup at multiple positions seemingly more likely. 
  9. Streeter Lecka

    #12 Kelley O'Hara - defender

    O'Hara has battled through injuries to become the team's unquestioned starter at right back. The veteran provides the attacking threat that Jill Ellis prefers from her fullbacks, making her an unquestioned starter as long as she's healthy. 
  10. Charly Triballeau

    #11 Christen Press - winger

    Press has earned more than 100 caps with the USWNT by being an effective, versatile attacker. She has the ability to spell Alex Morgan at the No. 9 position, but her role on this team appears to be as an attacking option off the bench. Press has started 2019 out strong though, and could be set to push Rose Lavelle as the starter at the No. 10 position, with Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath entrenched as starters at the wide forward spots. 
  11. Ezra Shaw

    #10 Rose Lavelle - midfielder

    What a difference a few months makes. After a hamstring injury kept Lavelle out for the better part of a year, the attack-minded midfielder returned to the USWNT in the summer of 2018 and by the fall, she was an unquestioned starter. The 23-year-old offers something different for the U.S. – creativity, fearlessness and an eye for goal.
  12. Mike Comer

    #9 Abby Dahlkemper - defender

    Dahlkemper has grown into one of the USWNT's most reliable defenders in the past two years and has entered 2019 as the team's starting center back next to Becky Sauerbrunn. Tierna Davidson could make a late bid for her starting role, but for now the job appears to be Dahlkemper's to lose. 
  13. Ian MacNicol

    #8 Crystal Dunn - fullback

    Famously the last player cut from the World Cup-winning 2015 squad, Dunn will have no such issues in 2019 having developed into one of the USA's most valuable – and versatile – performers. The 26-year-old has found a home at left back, but Ellis isn't afraid to deploy her further up the pitch if the game calls for it.
  14. Kyle Terada

    #7 Alyssa Naeher - goalkeeper

    Is Naeher ready for prime time? The 30-year-old has had to bide her time while backing up Hope Solo at the last two major tournaments, but the 2019 World Cup will be her chance to sink or swim. ​Naeher may not quite hit the heights her predecessor did, but she is a solid shot-stopper who can command a back line. 
  15. Getty Images

    #6 Tobin Heath - winger

    Nobody on the U.S. roster can create something from nothing quite like Heath. After missing much of 2017 and early 2018 with injuries, the 30-year-old surged back into form to show once again why there may not be a better one-on-one player in the world. Adding an end product has been the final piece of the puzzle for Heath, who is now unquestionably one of her team's most important players. 
  16. Ronald Martinez

    #5 Megan Rapinoe - winger

    One of the world's most dangerous attacking players over the past decade, Rapinoe is in the form of her life at age 33. The field tends to tilt in Rapinoe's direction when she's on the ball and she'll typically make the right decision, whether it's playing in a teammate for a scoring opportunity or taking the chance herself. Rapinoe's set-piece delivery is also vital for a team that scores so often from dead-ball situations. 
  17. Nils Petter Nilsson

    #4 Becky Sauerbrunn - defender

    The team's defensive linchpin, Sauerbrunn is still just as valuable at age 33 as she has been for the last several years. When it comes to positioning and reading the game, there are few in the world better than the Missouri native. Davidson and Dahlkemper may be the USWNT defensive pairing of the future, but  Sauerbrunn will still lead the way in 2019. 
  18. Aaron Doster

    #3 Lindsey Horan - midfielder

    After starting her career as a forward, Horan has found her niche as a true box-to-box No. 8. The NWSL MVP can start attacks with her range of passing, and finish them with her predatory instinct and aerial prowess. Horan's value to the team was evident by her absence at the SheBelieves Cup, as no player on the roster could truly replicate everything the 24-year-old does. 
  19. Rich Lam

    #2 Julie Ertz - midfielder

    Ertz, formally a defender for the USWNT, now plays a vital role for her team higher up the pitch. As the team's defensive midfield bedrock, Ertz covers plenty of territory and provides a shield to the back four, starting attacks by winning possession and allowing the five players in front of her to focus on creating scoring opportunities. 
  20. Ronald Martinez

    #1 Alex Morgan - forward

    Morgan's importance to the USWNT is quite simple to explain: She scores the goals, and there really isn't anyone who can replace her. Morgan was named 2018 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year by netting 18 times in 19 games last year. The U.S. doesn't have another pure No. 9 on the roster, and it certainly doesn't have a player who can score like Morgan.