At least on the surface, the state of American women’s soccer development would seem to be in fine fettle.
After all, Mallory Pugh, who only recently turned 18, has already scored for the full national team. At 23, Morgan Brian played a role in the World Cup-winning side of 2015. Pugh’s WNT teammate Ashley Sanchez is currently playing up with the U20s and recently earned a call-in to a national team camp.
And those are only the headlines. There’s a depth of quality in college and in the pre-college YNT pipeline the rest of the world will struggle to match.
That does not, however, mean they’ve stopped trying.
There are subtle signs everywhere that the world is gaining on U.S. women’s soccer. The most obvious is that it took the U.S. 16 years to win back a World Cup title, but there are YNT signs too. The U17s and U20s are no longer simply boxing Germany and two or three others for titles. The field is fleshing out. There’s more quality across the board than there’s ever been.
So let’s say we looked across the entire pre-professional landscape and picked an XI based on a blend of current ability and future prospects. Our only criteria is players have to be at most college age and can’t have signed a pro contract yet. So as good as Lindsey Horan is, she’s out today.
Could the U.S. WNT look like this in eight years? Certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to American soccer.