UPDATE: Megan Rapinoe was scratched from the roster on Aug. 27 due to a rib injury. Amy Rodriguez was called in to replace her.
If you thought U.S. women's national team coach Jill Ellis might use the upcoming series against Chile to widen the net a bit in casting for players, you may or may not have been surprised that she didn't.
Which is to say that if you were surprised, you probably also knew deep down it wasn't likely to happen.
Twenty of the 23 players from the recent Tournament of Nations squad were called up for the Chile games, to be played Aug. 31 in Carson, Calif. (11 p.m., ESPN2) and Sept. 4 in San Jose (10 p.m., ESPN2 and Univision Deportes). That includes all the big stars you'd expect: Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz, Delran's Carli Lloyd and so on.
Two of the three newcomers, Mallory Pugh and Kelley O'Hara, are really veterans who would have been on the prior squad if not for injuries. That's not to detract from their returns, of course; it's very good news that they are back. Pugh has the speed and skill to be the ultimate super-sub, and O'Hara is the favorite to be the starting right back at next year's World Cup.
But Chile is ranked 39th in FIFA's global standings. That's far lower than most teams the U.S. plays, including the global heavyweights it recently faced in the Tournament of Nations. It's nice to give a big stage to a team heading to its first ever World Cup, but the games likely won't be competitive. They're just warm-ups for Concacaf's World Cup qualifying tournament in October.
So it's news that there's no room for Lynn Williams, who has rediscovered her scoring touch this year with 11 goals for the NWSL-leading North Carolina Courage. Or fellow forward Kealia Ohai, who was on the Tournament of Nations training camp squad but didn't make the final cut. Sofia Huerta, a regular callup earlier this year with a versatile skill set, wasn't called up. Midfielders Andi Sullivan and Savannah McCaskill also remain out of the picture.
Veteran forward Amy Rodriguez and hardworking outside back Merritt Mathias were on the Tournament of Nations squad, but not this one. Allie Long would have been called in, U.S. Soccer said, if not for a recent knee injury. That was news in more than one way: she was called in for the Tournament of Nations but did not play, leading some observers to wonder if she might be dropped.
The one true prospect on the new roster is Hailie Mace, a 21-year-old UCLA defender who earned her first senior national team cap in April.
"Our team is in a good place coming off the Tournament of Nations and this is a great time to get two games against a country that has already qualified for the World Cup," Ellis said in a statement. "We've never played them before, but their style of play will be helpful in our final preparations for World Cup qualifiers. Our players are obviously deep into the chase for NWSL playoff spots, and they are coming off some intense games, so this will be a good chance to get the group together and share playing time before we come back together in October."
Some NWSL team coaches might raise eyebrows at those quotes. The NWSL starts the final weekend of its regular season on Sept. 8, and the Chicago Red Stars, in the thick of the playoff race, have a game on Sept. 4. (Though in the national team's defense, that game was rescheduled from earlier in the year due to bad weather.)
It's another reminder that the national team is the big dog at the table. And as the World Cup draws nearer, the national team's share of the spotlight will only grow bigger, even as the NWSL keeps growing too.
Goalkeepers (3): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
Defenders (7): Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Stanford), Hailie Mace (UCLA), Kelley O'Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns)
Midfielders (7): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), McCall Zerboni (North Carolina Courage)