Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are back with USWNT for World Cup, Olympic qualifiers

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Some familiar names are back with the U.S. women’s team for World Cup and Olympic qualifying.

Two-time World Cup champions Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn were among the 23 players named to the U.S. roster Monday for next month’s Concacaf W Championship. Morgan and Rapinoe have not played for the USWNT since October, with coach Vlatko Andonovski using the last few months to take a look at younger players. Sauerbrunn missed the April friendlies with a knee injury.

Morgan's return was not a surprise. She leads the NWSL with nine goals, and has played in every game for the first-place San Diego Wave. But Rapinoe has played in just four games for OL Reign this season, coming on as a substitute in each.

Andonovski said he told Rapinoe last fall that he was going to use the next several months to look at younger players, but that she would have a place on the team if she's healthy and fit enough to get playing time.

"We know what Megan is capable of doing. We saw that even in the some minutes she got in (the Reign's) last game, how dangerous she can be," Andonovski said. "Obviously this is a younger group we’re bringing in, so her experience going through adversity, going through tough times, getting on top, her winning mentality, her knowledge and understanding is very important for the group."

Missing from the U.S. roster is Christen Press, who left the field with a knee injury shortly after scoring in Angel City’s 3-2 win over Racing Louisville on Saturday night. Even before the injury, Andonovski said Press wasn't on the roster because of the depth the USWNT has at forward.

In addition to Morgan, Mallory Pugh is having a tremendous season with the Chicago Red Stars and Sophia Smith is impressing in Portland.

"For Christen to be back on field, it's not just to do well in her club environment, it's also to outperform the players she's competing against," Andonovski said. "It’s not easy to be a forward in the United States right now. Obviously it’s great, but it’s not easy because the competition just got bigger and bigger.

"I can’t see someone getting the starting spot from Mallory in qualifiers," Andonovski added.

Injuries were definitely a factor in his roster selection, Andonovski acknowledged. Catarina Macario, who helped Lyon win its eighth to the Champions League title, would certainly have been chosen had she not torn her ACL earlier this month. Sam Mewis and Abby Dahlkemper are also recovering from injuries.

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Crystal Dunn had her first baby in May and Julie Ertz is pregnant.

"Those are players that would probably take spots on the roster," Andonovski said.

The USWNT will play two friendlies against Colombia, June 25 in Commerce City, Colo., and June 28 in Sandy, Utah, before traveling to Monterrey, Mexico for the Concacaf W Championship. Four World Cup berths and a spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics are at stake in the tournament, where the USWNT begins play July 4.

The top two teams in each group will qualify for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, with the third-place teams in each group going to an inter-confederation playoff in February. The Concacaf W champion automatically qualifies for Paris, with the second- and third-place teams playing each other in September for Concacaf’s second Olympic spot.

"Every game we go into, we're going with the mindset it’s a must-win game," Andonovski said. "This tournament brings a little more significance because the two qualifiers are combined. It just brings a little more to the table and bigger motivation for our group."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe return to USWNT for World Cup qualifiers