USWNT Olympic roster: Projecting the 18 players to go to Tokyo 2020

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Rose Lavelle USWNT World Cup
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The team's new manager Vlatko Andonovski will have some tough decisions to make ahead of the tournament in Japan

Vlatko Andonovski doesn't have much time to settle in. 

The new U.S. women's national team head coach will have to hit the ground running, as his first months on the job will see his side ramping up their preparations for next summer's Olympics in Tokyo.

Concacaf Olympic qualifying will take place in late January and early February and before that, Andonovski will oversee a player identification camp this month that will give some fringe players a chance to impress.

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There's space for a dark horse or two to sneak their way onto the Olympic squad, but the final roster will still be comprised of mostly familiar names – especially because there are only 18 spots on offer, compared to 23 for the World Cup.

That will make Andonovski's job even tougher. Here's how Goal projects the USWNT Olympic squad, as they look to atone for their quarterfinal exit in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. 

Goalkeepers

Alyssa Naeher USA USWNT Women

MAKE THE CUT: Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Jane Campbell, Adrianna Franch, Aubrey Bledsoe, Casey Murphy

She entered the World Cup with plenty of questions, but Naeher justified the faith former boss Jill Ellis put in her and has solidified her spot as the team's unquestioned starter. 

The bigger question surrounds the identity of Naeher's backup, with the smaller roster meaning just one additional goalkeeper will travel to Japan. The battle would appear to be between Harris and Franch, the team's two backups at the World Cup, but Bledsoe is an outside contender after a NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year campaign in 2019.

Don't count out Murphy either, who impressed under Andonovski with Reign FC in the 2019 NWSL season. At 23, she is one to watch for the future. 

Defenders

Becky Sauerbrunn USWNT

MAKE THE CUT: Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelley O'Hara, Crystal Dunn, Tierna Davidson

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Casey Short, Emily Sonnett, Midge Purce, Hailie Mace, Jaelene Hinkle, Ali Krieger, Alana Cook, Imani Dorsey

Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper appear likely to reprise their role from the World Cup as the team's starting center back duo. The intrigue comes at the outside back positions.

When healthy, O'Hara is nailed down as the starting right back but injuries have plagued her in recent years. There's an opening for Sonnett or Short, who was cruelly left off the World Cup squad, to stake a claim for a roster spot. If O'Hara makes the squad, though, they could both miss out. Ali Krieger is also in the mix after making a surprise comeback to the side just before the World Cup.

At left back, Crystal Dunn performed admirably at the World Cup but there is still a sense that her long-term future with the USWNT lies in her more natural attacking midfield role. Where Andonovski sees Dunn fitting in will be an intriguing development to follow in the coming months. Davidson could be ready to step into a starting left back spot by the time the summer rolls around.

Midfielders

Rose Lavelle USWNT Women

MAKE THE CUT: Julie Ertz, Samantha Mewis, Morgan Brian, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Andi Sullivan, Allie Long, Danielle Colaprico, McCall Zerboni, Brianna Pinto 

Andonovski, like Ellis, looks set to choose three starters from the four-player group of Ertz, Mewis, Horan and Lavelle. There may only be room for one more midfielder on the roster outside of those four players, and it's likely to be a defensive-minded player with several of the forward/winger options able to slide back and play midfield if needed. 

Brian, a two-time World Cup winner who is still just 26, gets the nod for now because of her experience but it's really a toss-up between her, Sullivan and Long. A strong start to the NWSL season with the Washington Spirit could give Sullivan, who just missed the World Cup squad, the nod for Tokyo. 

Could there be room for a up-and-comer like Pinto? The UNC star made the 2017 SheBelieves Cup roster at age 16 and is one of the most complete midfield prospects the U.S. has seen in recent years. The 18-player roster may just prevent Pinto from being a surprise inclusion.

Wingers/forwards

Megan Rapinoe Alex Morgan USWNT World Cup 2019

MAKE THE CUT: Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Mallory Pugh, Christen Press

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Jessica McDonald, Lynn Williams, Kristen Hamilton

The two names everyone will be watching are Morgan and Lloyd, for vastly different reasons. 

Morgan is due with her first child in April, giving her around three months to get back into playing shape ahead of the Tokyo games. Morgan has a great role model in Orlando Pride teammate Sydney Leroux, who returned to the field in NWSL in September just 93 days after giving birth to her second child. Barring any complications, it will be hard to bet against an athlete as determined as Morgan. 

Lloyd, meanwhile, is nearing the end of her playing career and has shown, repeatedly, that she is unwilling to accept a bench role quietly. Andonovski would be within his rights to look at his side's depth and decide that the 37-year-old isn't worth the trouble but there's one problem: she just keeps scoring goals. Despite playing a substitute role for much of 2019, Lloyd still led the USWNT in goals this year with 16. Until she stops scoring – and especially with Morgan's status up in the air – Lloyd is on the plane to Japan. 

Should either Morgan or Lloyd miss out then it could be down to three NC Courage teammates, McDonald, Williams and Hamilton, for the final spot. 

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