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UNC soccer: A guide to the seven Tar Heels taking part in the Women’s World Cup

Former Carolina players will play for three different countries in this summer’s tournament

Soccer: Womens World Cup-USA Training Session Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

As it has been since the early 80s, UNC women’s soccer is one of the preeminent programs of the college ranks. There are dozens of Tar Heel alumni playing professionally around the world, and the pipeline will undoubtedly continue as long as Anson Dorrance is putting together excellent teams.

Due to that, it shouldn’t be a surprise that several former UNC women’s soccer players will by plying their trade in this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup. With play in the tournament having just kicked off on Friday, here’s your guide to the seven Tar Heels playing in this year’s World Cup in France.

Unsurprisingly, five of the seven Heels going the tournament are members of the USA roster. Those five are Crystal Dunn, Ashlyn Harris, Tobin Heath, Allie Long, and Jessica McDonald.

If the starting lineup in the USWNT’s warmup games is to be believed, you will likely see two Tar Heels when Jill Ellis’ team takes the field on Tuesday. Dunn and Heath have both been regular starters for the US over the past couple month, and will probably be in the starting eleven against Thailand.

Despite playing in a more attacking role for the North Carolina Courage of the NWSL, Dunn plays on the back line for the national team, and has carved out a good role for herself there. Meanwhile, Heath will be one of the USA’s key attacking outlets. Our mothership at SB Nation ranked her at #3 in the top 50 players at the World Cup, praising how her technical ability and flashy ball skills have finally started to lead to equivalent results on the scoreboard.

As for the other three, Long will probably get some run in the midfield at some point. Harris is the backup goalie, so unless there’s an injury or suspension, she might not play. McDonald did not get any playing time in the three warmup games, which is par for the course with amount of talented attacking players that the US has. Even still, she has one of the best stories at the World Cup, as we here at Tar Heel Blog have profiled before.

As you would expect, the majority of UNC players are on the US team, but there are two others in the tournament besides those two.

England-born Lucy Bronze played just one season in Chapel Hill, helping the Tar Heels win the 2009 national championship. She left to turn professional back in England after that season, and has spent the time since becoming a genuine world star.

Bronze is currently a member of Olympique Lyon, who are the most dominant women’s professional club in France and one of the most dominant in all of Europe. Lyon has won the last four Women’s Champions League, which is a tournament to crown the best club team in all of Europe. Bronze has been part of the last two after moving over from England in 2017.

Prior to that, she had twice been named player of the year in the Women’s Super League, which is the biggest league in England. Now Bronze will be a key figure on an England national team that is a possible contender for the World Cup title. She is naturally a defender, but such are her skills that coaches have experimented with playing her in midfield. Bronze came 14th in the aforementioned SB Nation top 50 list.

The seventh Tar Heel in this tournament is New Zealand’s Katie Bowen. The defender played four seasons in Chapel Hill, making 20 appearances in the 2012 national championship winning season.

Despite being just 25, this will be Bowen’s third World Cup, having been in New Zealand’s 2011 and 2015 rosters. She started in all three of her country’s warmup games, so you should probably expect her to be a regular once again this year. Unlike the US and England, New Zealand is not expected to go very far in the tournament.

If you want to see the Tar Heels in action, you first chance will be right now, as Bronze and England take on Scotland at 12 PM ET. That game will air on you local FOX affiliate. Both the US and New Zealand won’t take the field until Tuesday. Bowen and company will take on the Netherlands Tuesday at 9 AM ET on FS1, while the US will begin their tournament against Thailand later that day at 3 PM ET on FOX.

Good luck to all the Tar Heels in France!