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What to know about the US women’s soccer team, reigning World Cup champions

The U.S. played its first match July 21, defeating Vietnam 3-0.
/ Source: TODAY

The United States women's national soccer team is looking to three-peat as World Cup champions in 2023 with a roster of tournament veterans and newbies.

The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, hosted by Australia and New Zealand, kicked off for the USWNT Friday, July 21, at 9 p.m. ET against Vietnam, defeating the newcomer team 3-0. Team captain Lindsey Horan's second-half goal secured the win, while rookie Sophia Smith led the team by scoring two goals in her World Cup debut game.

The team is expected to make a long run in the tournament as the defending World Cup champ with veterans such as Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe on the roster.

Here's more about the coach and the players to keep an eye on.

Vlatko Andonovski, head coach

Vlatko Andonovski, head coach of 2023 World Cup USA women's national soccer team
Vlatko Andonovski, head coach of USA.Catherine Ivill / FIFA via Getty Images

Vlatko Andonovski is the head coach of the USWNT. He took over the role in October 2019, months after the team won the World Cup that summer.

“It’s a huge honor and I’m very excited to get started with this group of players and staff as we work towards continued success for this program," he said in a press release at the time.

"All of the talented coaches and players that have come before have built a legendary tradition of excellence and I’m committed to working very hard to continue to move this program forward," he continued.

Andonovski hand-picked a roster of 23 for the 2023 World Cup in June, including 14 players competing in the World Cup for the first time, which Andonovski is, too.

Building the roster wasn't easy, Andonovski said in a press release.

“The task of selecting a World Cup Team is never easy, but I’m proud of the players for their work ethic and focus during the process and of our coaching staff for doing the work to put together the best team possible,” he said.

“It’s the players that make the biggest impact on our environment, they push each other to be better and I know as a group they are extremely motivated to make our country proud at the World Cup," he continued.

The 2023 USWNT roster for the World Cup includes:

Megan Rapinoe, forward

Megan Rapinoe of 2023 World Cup USA women's national soccer team
Megan Rapinoe of USA.Catherine Ivill / FIFA via Getty Images

One of the veteran leaders of the team is Megan Rapinoe, who is competing in her fourth and final World Cup. The 38-year-old scored six goals in the last tournament and has announced she is retiring at the conclusion of the 2023 National Women's Soccer League season.

“This is going to be my last season, my last World Cup and my last NWSL season,” Rapinoe said at a news briefing earlier this month. “Obviously there’ll be more to come further down, down the road after hopefully we get done what we want to get done, but I just want to say thank you to everybody, to you guys, to Vlatko, to U.S. soccer, to, you know, literally everyone that I’ve played with, all of my coaches.”

Julie Ertz, midfielder

Julie Ertz of 2023 World Cup USA women's national soccer team
Julie Ertz at USWNT training on July 14 in Auckland.Brad Smith / Getty Images for USSF

Julie Ertz is competing in her third World Cup and is considered a dominant force in the middle of the field. She is also a parent to toddler Madden alongside her husband, Zach Ertz, a tight end for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals.

The 31-year-old soccer star said on Instagram July 14 that her teammates are like aunts to her son.

"No words can describe sharing this journey with my son," she wrote. "Madden has 22 of the coolest and inspirational aunties in the world!"

Alex Morgan, forward

Alex Morgan of 2023 World Cup USA women's national soccer team
Alex Morgan at USWNT training on July 18 in Auckland.Brad Smith / Getty Images for USSF

Alex Morgan is a captain on the team, along with midfielder Lindsey Horan, and is competing in her fourth World Cup. She won the Silver Boot at the 2019 tournament and scored six goals while assisting on another three.

The 34-year-old explained earlier this month how the team is approaching this tournament as separate from its past victorious runs.

“I think a lot of fans talk about it, but this team, we have 14 first-timers for the World Cup and we see this as our own journey,” Morgan said. “Each four-year block is its own; we’re coming to the end of this four-year block after the World Cup."

There are also some roster facts to know outside of these three key players.

4 of the 7 defenders are World Cup rookies

The USWNT is known for its rock-solid defense, led by four-time World Cup veteran Kelley O'Hara, with Emily Sonnett and Crystal Dunn joining her for their second World Cup. The other four defenders — Alana Cook, Emily Fox, Sofia Huerta and Naomi Girma — are rookies to the tournament.

Girma is expected to help anchor the defense with veteran and captain Becky Sauerbrunn out due to a foot injury. Girma said on Instagram last month it’s an honor to be a part of the team.

“World Cup Bound!!!” she said. “This is truly a dream come true!! Honored to be representing USA this summer.”

Who are the 14 USWNT players competing in the World Cup for the first time?

The United States poses for their official team photo.
The United States poses for its official team photo for the World Cup during USWNT training earlier this month.Brad Smith / Getty Images for USSF

The first-time World Cup competitors are Aubrey Kingsbury, Casey Murphy, Alana Cook, Emily Fox, Naomi Girma, Sofia Huerta, Savannah DeMelo, Kristie Mewis, Ashley Sanchez, Andi Sullivan, Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith, Alyssa Thompson and Lynn Williams.

Who are the USWNT goalies for the World Cup?

Alyssa Naeher #1, Casey Murphy #18 and Aubrey Kingsbury #21
Alyssa Naeher, Casey Murphy and Aubrey Kingsbury of the United States during training on July 4 in Stanford, California.Brad Smith / Getty Images for USSF

Kingsbury, Murphy and Alyssa Naeher are protecting the net. It's Naeher's third World Cup. She is ranked third all-time in wins and shutouts for a goalkeeper in U.S. history, according to the USWNT's website.