Colorado teenager Mallory Pugh became the youngest woman soccer player chosen for a U.S. Olympic qualifying roster Tuesday when she was selected to the 20-player team for next month’s CONCACAF tournament in Texas.
Pugh, 17, made her first appearance — and scored her first goal — for the U.S. national team Saturday in its opening game of the year, a 5-0 win over Ireland in San Diego. That proved to be good timing for Pugh, a UCLA recruit, when Sydney Leroux announced Monday she was pregnant and would sit out the rest of the season.
U.S. Coach Jill Ellis is also missing forward Amy Rodriguez, who is also pregnant. Four other players from last summer’s World Cup championship team have retired while two others are injured.
And that’s opened the way for several newcomers, eight of whom have made fewer than nine appearances for the national team. Also making the qualifying roster were forward Crystal Dunn, the reigning MVP and scoring champion in the National Women’s Soccer League, forward Stephanie McCaffrey and former UCLA midfielder Sam Mewis. Dunn was the last player cut from last summer’s World Cup roster while McCaffrey, 22, and Mewis, 23, have each made five appearances for the U.S.
Among those cut from the team was defender Whitney Engen of Rolling Hills, the only outfield player who did not see action in the World Cup.
“The average age of our team has declined dramatically since the World Cup,” forward Alex Morgan said.
The U.S., which has won the last three Olympic tournaments, is bidding to become the first team ever to win a World Cup and an Olympic gold medal in consecutive years.
Goalkeepers: Ashlyn Harris, Alyssa Naeher, Hope Solo.
Defenders: Jaelene Hinkle, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Emily Sonnett.
Midfielders: Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd, Samantha Mewis.
Forwards: Crystal Dunn, Stephanie McCaffrey, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh.
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11