The history of the US Women’s National Soccer Team includes plenty of Tar Heels, and that history will continue at this summer’s Olympics.
Coach Vlatko Andonovski’s USWNT roster for the Olympic tournament was announced on Wednesday, and two former UNC players, Crystal Dunn and Tobin Heath, will be heading to Japan as the US looks to win their fifth women’s soccer gold.
Dunn has been a national team regular ever since making her first tournament five years ago for the last Olympics. Since then, she’s been part of the 2019 World Cup winning squad, has won two NWSL Championships, and been an excellent performer for country and club. She currently has helped her Portland Thorns team get off to a good start in the NWSL season, as they’re tied for first in the league.
Despite being part of two World Cup winning squads, two Olympic gold medal winning squads, and appearing for the USWNT 169 times, Heath was actually the more surprising inclusion. She has been out since January with injuries suffered while playing with Manchester United in England. She was always set to recover in time, but it was unclear if Andonovski would definitely pick someone who hasn’t played in months. He did and Heath will now play in her fourth Olympic Games.
Only two Tar Heels is actually a bit light compared to other USWNT squads, but a third, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, was among the final cuts. Beyond that, Olympic rosters are limited to 18 players, compared to 23 for World Cup ones.
Dunn, Heath, and the USWNT will begin Olympic play July 21st with a match against Sweden. Their group will also see them face off again Australia and New Zealand. The tournament features 12 teams, with eight advancing to the knockout rounds. If they make it, the Gold Medal match will be held August 6th in Tokyo.
The 2016 Olympics was the first time the US failed to medal in women’s soccer since the sport debuted in 1996. They had previously won four of the five golds, and got silver the only timed they failed to win the tournament. Hopefully, Dunn, Heath, and the rest of the squad can return to the top of the medial podium this summer!