The 20 women chosen to wear America's colors in quest of the third Women's World Cup, the final round of which opens 31 days from today in East Rutherford, N.J., were named yesterday in Chicago.
Coach Tony DiCicco's roster includes 13 players from his Olympic gold medalists three years ago, as well as six who helped the Americans win the first women's world championship in 1991.
But it's no stand-pat roster. DiCicco has blended in eight young players, who will get to experience the intensity and glamour of competing in what, off ticket sales and world TV commitments, will be history's most widely watched women's sports event.
The talent ranges from Mia Hamm, 27, whom many consider the world's best player and who could set a world scoring record of 108 goals in Saturday's friendly against Brazil; to midfielder Michelle Akers, 33, already holder of FIFA's highest honor, the FIFA Order of Merit; to Kate Sobrero, 22, a likely defensive starter who only entered the national team picture 13 months ago.
Eight players have 115 or more "caps," or international games. Midfielder Kristine Lilly, 27, is the world-record holder for men or women with 177. The average age is 24.5 years.
"This is the best team the U.S. has ever put together," DiCicco told a news conference via telephone.
"This team is going to be very exciting to watch," said one of his veterans, defender Brandi Chastain, 31. She was on the first world title team, missed the 1995 tournament, and is playing perhaps the best ball of her 92-match international career. She scored twice in Sunday's 3-0 win over the Netherlands.
The 20 players chosen by DiCicco and his staff were winnowed during a process that he said began the day after the Olympics. A couple hundred players were considered, he said, with 50 being called to training camps; most played in various international friendlies or lesser tournaments.
Several with Maryland ties, including Rosedale's Laurie Schwoy, former UMBC coach Amanda Cromwell and Joppatowne's Thori Staples, were looked at but faded from contention because of injury or other factors.
DiCicco said that heading into the U.S. team's opener June 19 at Giants Stadium, he wants to refine dead-ball plays, which often lead to goals, work on defensive communication and boost fitness.
But, he said, "we're on track to where we want to be" for the opener against Denmark.
That includes regaining a once-lethal scoring punch that disappeared earlier this year, contributing to two rare losses to another World Cup seed, China. The Americans have scored 24 times in their past four friendlies against less formidable opponents.
U.S. women's team
Goalkeepers: Tracy Ducar, Briana Scurry*, Saskia Webber*
Defenders: Brandi Chastain*, Lorrie Fair, Joy Fawcett**, Carla Overbeck**, Christie Pearce, Kate Sobrero, Sara Whelan
Midfielders: Michelle Akers**, Julie Foudy**, Kristine Lilly**, Tiffeny Milbrett*, Tiffany Roberts*, Tisha Venturini*
Forwards: Danielle Fotopolous, Mia Hamm**, Shannon MacMillan, Cindy Parlow
*second World Cup team
**third World Cup team