Mallory Swanson, USWNT's top scorer, tears patellar tendon 3 months before World Cup

United States forward Mallory Swanson signals to fans as she is taken off the field after an injury during the first half of an international friendly soccer match against Ireland in Austin, Texas, Saturday, April 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN, Texas — Mallory Swanson, the U.S. women's national team's top scorer in 2023, has been diagnosed with a torn patellar tendon in her left knee and will almost certainly miss this summer's World Cup.

U.S. Soccer revealed the diagnosis Sunday, less than 24 hours after Swanson suffered the injury in a friendly against Ireland.

Swanson has returned to Chicago, her home, for further evaluation, U.S. Soccer said. The extent of the tear is unclear, but assuming it requires surgery, her recovery will last at least several months, and perhaps up to a year. If so, she'll miss the World Cup, which begins July 20, and likely the rest of the National Women's Soccer League season.

Alyssa Thompson, the 18-year-old winger who has taken the NWSL by storm, has replaced Swanson on the current roster ahead of another friendly against Ireland on Tuesday.

In all likelihood, though, nobody will be able to replace Swanson's production. She had scored seven goals in five 2023 games, and almost single-handedly won the SheBelieves Cup in February. She'd scored in six straight matches dating back to 2022. After some struggles in her early 20s, she'd become the USWNT's best attacker, and a would-be catalyst this summer.

But then she went down after a tackle late in Saturday's first half and immediately waved one arm in the air in distress, as she used the other to grab for her stricken left leg. Teammates rushed toward her; Rose Lavelle tried to stabilize her heaving upper body and comfort her; others signaled for medical attention, which soon came.

"It's a bit emotional," Lavelle later said.

The USWNT's medical staff hurried onto the field. An EMT cart arrived, and a half-dozen medical personnel appeared to immobilize Swanson's left leg. As they did, a couple teammates stood by her; one, Lindsey Horan, stepped 10 feet away from the scene and dropped into a crouch.

Two hours later, speaking postgame, Horan said she was still "a little bit shook."

Alex Morgan, who also stood nearby, said with a sunken facial expression that it was "really hard to see Mal go down in pain like that before the World Cup."

After at least five minutes of on-field treatment, she was carted away and taken to a nearby hospital. Teammates and head coach Vlatko Andonovski felt for her, not only because she'd sculpted herself into a brilliant soccer player, but because she's "a very lovable person," as Andonovski said.

And they hoped for positive news. But as they settled in St. Louis ahead of the second tuneup match against Ireland, they didn't get it.

In Swanson's absence, the USWNT's depth at her position, winger, remains excellent. Sophia Smith will become the team's top threat. Trinity Rodman will likely claim Swanson's place in the starting 11, with Thompson, Lynn Williams, Megan Rapinoe and Midge Purce battling for roster spots behind them.

The World Cup roster will be announced in June. The USWNT will play one final warmup friendly in early July before heading to New Zealand for the tournament.