USWNT qualifies for the 2023 Women’s World Cup

A United States women’s national team that arrived in Mexico this week with two goals already achieved the first: after a lopsided win over Jamaica on Thursday night, the United States secured a spot at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The Americans won 5-0 in the second game of the Concacaf Women’s Championship, which serves as both a regional championship and a qualifier for the Women’s World Cup and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The United States beat Haiti 3-0 in their opening game on Monday.

As part of the revised eight-team regional tournament, officially dubbed the Concacaf W Championship, the top two finishers in each four-team group automatically qualify for the Women’s World Cup, where the United States are two-time defending champions.

The United States ensured they would be among the top finishers with a dominant performance against Jamaica: Sophia Smith scored twice in the first eight minutes and Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis and Trinity Rodman added goals in the second half, as the outclassed Jamaicans went down an onslaught of US depth and scoring chances.

The Americans’ World Cup spot was only secured hours later, however, when Haiti defeated hosts Mexico in the second game of the night. That result guaranteed the United States a place in the top two in their first-round group and a spot at the expanded 32-team World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next summer.

The United States is the 12th nation to qualify, joining Asia’s South Korea, Japan, China, the Philippines and Vietnam as co-hosts; and Sweden, France, Denmark and Spain from Europe.

Canada, reigning women’s Olympic champions and America’s closest regional rival, is expected to join that group on Friday when they take on Panama in their second game of the tournament. But the biggest story of the tournament could be Haiti: their 3-0 win over Mexico means it only needs a draw against Jamaica in the final group game to earn their first trip to the World Cup.

The next goal for the United States, meanwhile, will be to secure a spot at the Paris Olympics. Only the winner of the Concacaf tournament gets a direct spot in that tournament, although there will be a lifeline for the second- and third-placed nations through an Olympic Concacaf playoff in September 2023.

US coach Vlatko Andonovski manages a team in turmoil as he navigates the path to both tournaments. The side he brought to Mexico is a mix of World Cup veterans like Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Becky Sauerbrunn and new faces like Smith, whose two goals gave her seven that year, the most for a US player; defenseman Naomi Girma, who assisted in Smith’s first goal in just her third game for the USA; and Rodman, the daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman.

This variety of options has given the team a glimpse into the future of a championship roster that currently includes veterans like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan. Thirteen members of Andonovski’s squad are competing in their first World Cup or Olympic qualifying tournament for the team, and eight entered the tournament with fewer than ten caps.

Smith showed a whiff of promise at his disposal in the opening minutes. On her first goal, she took a long pass down the right touchline, lifted the ball over the head of a running defender to slice off, then flicked it past the Jamaican keeper with her right foot.

Her second came a few minutes later, after a similar lead ball down the right, and ended just as skillfully: with a first touch flip about the goalkeeper who was confirmed after a short video review.

Two other first-half goals – from Ashley Hatch in the 11th minute and Mallory Pugh in the 27th – were erased by video review, used for the first time at the Women’s Championship this year.

However, the result was never in doubt. An unmarked Lavelle scored at the far post in the 59th minute to make it 3-0; Kristie Mewis converted a penalty after Midge Purce was run over in the penalty area in the 82nd minute; and Rodman converted a Pugh cross four minutes later for their second international goal.