Three Things the USWNT Needs to Address With Its Goalkeeper Position

It's a worrisome time for the USWNT goalkeeper position. A last place finish at the SheBelieves Cup in March raised concerns with the current starters, Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris. Now with Harris out for a month and a half and turning 32 in October, fans are left wondering what the future of the position is going to look like. There are a number of fantastic write-ups on who the next USWNT goalkeeper should be (Scott French's article on FourFourTwo lists a number of possible goalkeepers while Jessica Fletcher provides a more in-depth look at four rising stars) but there a few hurdles the USWNT needs to address first.


Get As Many Goalkeepers in As Possible

The biggest problem with the Hope Solo era is that it was only the Hope Solo era. Rarely did any other goalkeeper get on the field in the past fifteen years. It was so lopsided, that the USWNT just recently got back to having more than one goalkeeper under 30 with at least one cap.

It was encouraging to see Abby Smith's inclusion on the Scandinavia tour but to no surprise she was not granted an appearance on the field in either game. Instead Alyssa Naeher, who we know exactly what to expect as a goalkeeper, played both games. In the two game series with 25th ranked Russia back in April, Jane Campbell was subbed in for Ashlyn Harris during the 74th minute when the scoreline was 5-1. Even when the USWNT is mopping opponents, youngsters struggle to get off the bench.

Teams should strive for cohesiveness between their goalkeepers and backline but overprotecting the position, by playing only one goalkeeper, creates a glass ceiling for everyone. The starting goalkeeper becomes complacent while the backups realize they can not work themselves into the starting role.

Perhaps the best example of a team utilizing multiple goalkeepers correctly was in the most recent Copa America. Some fans were skeptical about the lack of cohesiveness in the defense but Mexico earned seven points in the three matches, topping Venezuela and Uruguay for first place. Even in a competitive tournament, Mexico had no issue rotating goalkeepers, conceding only two goals in the group stage.

An open net, when done properly, empowers the goalkeeper core as well as the rest of the team. It sends a message that the manager is looking for the best and isn't content with anything short of it. Not every American goalkeeper deserves a chance in goal, but currently there are too many goalkeepers who haven't been given a chance. For goalkeepers like Abby Smith, Haley Kopmeyer and Adrianna Franch, they're constantly thought of as possible USWNT goalkeepers but we never really know because they're not given opportunities to prove themselves.


Stop Ignoring Goalkeepers in Europe

The USWNT has a thin history with Euro-based goalkeepers. The last two goalkeepers to earn a cap when playing in Europe were Hope Solo in 2005 and Saskia Webber in 1998. It says a lot about a goalkeeper who's willing to uproot from a comfortable place and push themselves to another level. The NWSL's limited roster spots offers only so much time for American goalkeepers yet Europe has a need of high level goalkeepers. While the the USWNT should want its players to continue to strive for the next level, they routinely ignore American goalkeepers playing abroad.

Despite offering aspects that the NWSL can't, Europe is understood to be a place void of National Team invites from fans and players alike. Katie Fraine expressed back in 2014 the unlikelihood of a call up in the past. "I believe being in Europe very strongly hurts my chances on getting a call up, especially considering that all of the players currently on the national team who were previously playing abroad have been brought back to the NWSL."

Libby Stout, when playing at Liverpool, echoed the same sentiment. "I do think that being overseas slightly affects my chances. I’m not being seen on a weekly or monthly basis so the odds are less."

For goalkeepers like Alyssa Giannetti and Michelle Betos in Norway or Adelaide Gay and Lindsey Harris in Iceland or Kelsey Brouwer in Cyprus or Audrey Baldwin in France, they're training in an environment where losing their job means having to leave a country. The USWNT needs to reward players for reaching a higher standard and not encourage them to become a backup in the NWSL. If playing in Europe was good enough for Ashlyn Harris (FCR 2001 Duisburg, Tyresö FF, 2012-13) and Alyssa Naeher (Turbine Potsdam, 2011-13), it's good enough for American goalkeepers in 2017.


Explore a "B" Team For Fringe Players

If players are stuck in a limbo of being untested but not quite USWNT-ready, a "B" team would be an easy fix. Essentially the equivalent of the USMNT's Camp Cupcake in the winter, the USWNT could organize a second team to place the players in question in an elevated environment. England's David James made a great case for a "B" team for England back in 2010. Specifically he points out an issue with late bloomers:

Otherwise, it seems, if you want to be successful in international football you had better do it while you’re young or miss out forever. As someone interested in coaching, I worry about an attitude that assumes if you haven’t done it already then you will never do it. That’s far too simplistic an approach and it says everything about this throwaway world we’re in: he’s had his chance, it didn’t work out so let’s get a new one. The B team can work as a vehicle to rejuvenate players who were in the frame at one point and are now out of it because of their age.
— David James

While a "B" team might not sellout stadiums, as James points out in the article, it gives players a chance to showcase themselves at an international level the NWSL can't offer. In turn, coaches are able to see who does and doesn't fit in a more intense and focused setting. 

The USWNT played 25 games last year, so finding opponents isn't the issue. And there's not a shortage of countries who wouldn't mind playing the USWNT's "B" team instead of the "A" team. Young players wouldn't have to worry about costing their club team points while late bloomers could finally get themselves out of limbo. Worst-case scenario is the late bloomers aren't good enough and it turns into a U23 team to give young players time on the field.

The US aren't strangers to unconventional methods with their national teams. The early 90's essentially created a "club USMNT" as MLS wasn't established yet so players trained solely with the national team. On the women's side, the 1999 World Cup winners were club-less, as the WUSA was still two years away from creation. The USSF found a solution for both set of players to make sure they were still getting games and developing along the way.

The goalkeeper position turned stale by not giving young goalkeepers a chance and now fans are left wringing their hands over the position's future. There are avenues to reviving the position, but sticking with the same one or two goalkeepers isn't the answer.

Cases For the Six Goalkeepers on the 2017 Soccer Hall of Fame Ballot

Last week the National Soccer Hall of Fame released their nominees for the 2017 class. The ballot contains six hopeful goalkeepers, most notably 1999 World Cup legend Briana Scurry, looking to join the ten goalkeepers already enshrined in the Hall.

The Hall has an odd history with goalkeepers. Originally they were quick to induct goalkeepers, seeing seven goalkeepers inducted over the first few decades. This created a nice representation of the top goalkeepers in a variety of generations. However after 1976, goalkeepers struggled to make the cut. In the last 43 years, only three goalkeepers have been inducted that would otherwise be largely forgotten. Although while goalkeepers were a hot commodity at one point, voters simply haven't known what to do with them since.

Part of the reason for low goalkeeper numbers is due to, somewhat ironically, the lack of organization throughout the Hall's history. The 1960s saw a grand total of five players make the Hall of Fame, for example. Another reason is the voting process has recently pushed away from valuing club performance and almost exclusively leaning on the number of caps a player gained. Clearly this makes it tough for goalkeepers, as caps are harder to come by for them, but also any non-American players struggle to have the right eye candy voters want.

The Hall did a wonderful job of including top goalkeepers from multiple generations but now it's resorted to more a checklist for the most capped players. If the Baseball Hall of Fame can enshrine a pitcher from every year of MLB, it seems reasonable that they can put one goalkeeper from each decade in the Soccer Hall of Fame.

Since there are a million different ways to set a standard for the Hall of Fame, let's move on to the six nominees looking to make the cut.


1. Briana Scurry

Does she belong?: Without question. She's the 1999 World Cup Champion with the iconic penalty save in the shootout final to set up the win. Plus, goalkeepers with 173 caps and two Olympic gold medals don't come along every day. If she's not good enough, no goalkeeper is. It's already inexcusable that one of - if not the - premier goalkeeper in the world has been passed on for three years.

Outlook: Hard to say. In 2015 she just missed the cutoff with a handful of votes but she's been a "shoo-in" since her first year. (I couldn't find 2016 voting numbers.) There's not a very clear reason for why she hasn't been inducted outside of a poor voting system.


2/3. Kevin Hartman and Joe Cannon

Do they belong? Let me first stay that I am aware they are two different goalkeepers with their own careers. Clearly one chewed gum while playing in goal and the other did not. That said, they're in the same boat. Regardless that they have a combined 758 games (over 22 full seasons) and three MLS Goalkeeper of the Year awards, voters love the USMNT. Hartman and Cannon only combined for seven caps so if international performance is the bar to clear, they simply don't meet the criteria.

However it's worth noting that their short international careers weren't due to poor performances but simply a crowded field. Legends like Meola, Friedel, Keller, and Howard managed to keep a number of MLS goalkeepers at bay. While they rarely were featured with the USMNT, Hartman and Cannon set a standard of consistency in MLS that has rarely been matched since their retirement.

Voters need to consider what it would have taken for Hartman and Cannon to become worthy of selection. If it's earning more caps in the career by unseating more than one of the top ten goalkeepers in the world, that seems like an unreasonable bar to set for players.

Outlook: It'll be at least five years if not closer to ten. Their best bet may actually be landing with the veteran committee, where they only need 50% approval of votes, not two-thirds.


4. Pat Onstad

Does he belong? Onstad returns for his third year but the goalkeeper is no stranger to sticking around past everyone's expectations. The Canadian legend was playing everywhere he could before MLS came around. While he only has 57 caps for the Canadian National Team, Onstad's Hall of Fame bid is solely based on his play in MLS. He's one of nine goalkeepers to earn 200 starts despite being 28 when MLS finally started up, playing all the way until age 43. For a goalkeeper who obviously couldn't impact the USMNT, he's one of the most influential Canadian soccer players on the American game.

Outlook? He didn't gain 15% of votes in 2015 and I think a mostly American-voting base isn't too fond of voting for Canadians over their own. My bet is he ends up on the veteran committee at some point and gets in then.


5. Mary Harvey

Does she belong? Out of all the American goalkeepers from the early 90s, she had as good as career as any of them. Unfortunately it seems that playing for the USWNT just isn't as respected as playing for the men's team. Harvey earned 27 caps, only eight behind Arnie Mausser (2003 inductee), placing her sixth all-time with the USWNT. She played overseas when playing domestically wasn't an option, something very few American players did at the time.

Harvey was the number one goalkeeper for the early 90s and started for the USWNT in their first World Cup win (1991). If a goalkeeper on the men's side earned on 27 caps but was the starting goalkeeper in their first World Cup win, I would imagine he'd have a strong chance of getting in.

Outlook? She only received 19% of votes in 2004 and wasn't in the top five for the veteran's vote in 2015. If Scurry can't make it, Harvey's chances are most likely close to zero.


6. Shep Messing

Does he belong? I don't think voters have a good answer for wondering what a Hall of Fame career would look like for a player in the middle of the NASL collapsing. For someone that did anything he could to continue playing until age 38, his career is easy to forget given the time.

Messing never earned a cap for the national team, which is fairly damning for nearly every Hall of Fame voter. But realistically Messing played in an era when the USMNT didn't mean anything. If the 1978 Cosmos team played the USMNT at the time, it'd likely be a toss up. So it's hard to criticize a player for not being a part of an organization when it didn't take itself seriously enough to warrant participation.

Messing is probably the most iconic NASL goalkeeper and it would be nice to have another goalkeeper from a forgotten era, which there is precedent for when looking at the first inducted goalkeepers.

Outlook? Similar to Harvey, he hasn't had the support in the past and there appear to be more favorable names for the veteran's committee than Messing. He did earn 39% in 2015 (needed 50% to get in) but it was still fifth overall and they only approve one per year with the veteran's vote. At this point, if he hasn't made it yet he most likely never will.


Goalkeepers in the National Soccer Hall of Fame
bios taken from

Peter “Pete” Renzulli (1951) - Goalkeeper who played for a string of American Soccer League clubs in the 1920s and won three U.S. Open Cup titles. Renzulli played in the original ASL from 1922 to 1930, for Todd Shipyards, Paterson, Indiana Flooring, New York Nationals and New York Giants. He won Open Cup titles with Robins Dry Dock in 1921, Paterson in 1923 and New York Nationals in 1928.

George Tintle (1952) - Goalkeeper who was the first famous goalie in American soccer history, making Scandinavian tours with the U.S. National Team in 1916, Bethlehem Steel in 1919 and a St. Louis all-star team in 1920. Tintle played for a string of different teams during his career, including Harrison AA in the first two seasons of the original American Soccer League. 

Jimmy Douglas (1953) - Goalkeeper who played for the United States in both the 1924 Olympic Games and the 1930 World Cup. Douglas also played nine seasons in the original American Soccer League, for eight different teams. He played nine full internationals for the United States between 1924 and 1930, including both of the U.S. games at the 1924 Olympics in Paris and all three of the U.S. games at the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay.

Stanley Chesney (1966) - Goalkeeper who played 17 seasons in the American Soccer League for the New York Americans. He won an ASL championship with the Americans in 1936 and the U.S. Open Cup in 1937. Although he never played for the full U.S. National Team, he gained the nickname “The International Man” for his frequent appearance for ASL selections against foreign teams, including three games against the touring Scottish all-stars in 1935 and 1939.

Gene Olaff (1971) - Goalkeeper who played for the Brooklyn Hispano team that won the American Soccer League-U.S. Open Cup double in 1943 and took the Open Cup again a year later. Olaff, who played for Hispano from 1941 to 1953, was the premier American goalkeeper of the 1940s but played only one game for the U.S. Men’s National Team, which went 10 years without a game because of World War II.

Frank Borghi (1976) -  Goalkeeper who is often considered the top contributor to the United States’ 1-0 upset of England in the 1950 World Cup. That game was one of nine full internationals he played for the United States between 1949 and 1954, games that included three in the World Cup and five more in World Cup qualifying. Borghi won numerous honors with several club teams in St. Louis, including winning U.S. Open Cup titles in 1948 and 1950 with Simpkins.

Gino Gard (1976) - Goalkeeper who was a member of the United States squad at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. Gard, who was born in Italy and whose name was Gardassanich before he moved to the United States, played from 1949 to 1959 for Slovak of the National Soccer League of Chicago. He reached the National Amateur Cup final in 1953 with Slovak.

Arnie Mausser (2003) - Goalkeeper who played 10 seasons in the North American Soccer League and was the first-choice ’keeper for the U.S. Men’s National Team through most of the NASL era. Mausser played 35 full internationals for the United States between 1975 and 1985, including 11 World Cup qualifiers. He played for seven different NASL teams and was the only American chosen as a first-team NASL all-star in that league’s last nine seasons.

Tony Meola (2012) - Goalkeeper who was captain of the United States team in the 1994 World Cup. Meola played 100 full internationals for the United States between 1988 and 2000, including seven games at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups and five World Cup qualifiers in 1989 and 2000. Meola played 11 seasons in MLS, winning both a league title and the MLS most valuable player award with the Kansas City Wizards in 2000.

Kasey Keller (2015) - Goalkeeper who started for the 1989 U20 World Cup team that earned a US-best ever 4th place finish. He would go on to earn 102 caps with the senior team from 1990 to 2007 and appear on four USMNT World Cup rosters. Keller was one of the first American players to have a successful and lengthy career abroad, playing for Millwall, Leicester City, Rayo Vallecano, Tottenham, and Borussia Mönchengladbach before returning to the Seattle Sounders for his final years, earning the 2011 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award.


A full list of the Hall of Fame's members can be found here.

Top 100 USWNT Goalkeepers - April 2017

cover photo belongs to Lyndsay Radnedge, Stanford Athletics

We haven't had an update on the goalkeeper pool in over a year and since the NWSL has kicked off, we’re overdue for an update. There's not a ton of change at the top but I've changed gears on including college goalkeepers. There are still a number of collegiate players on the list (42, to be exact) but previously we were having too high of a turnover rate. Over half of last year's top 100 aren't playing anymore and most of them are seniors who didn't make the jump. In an attempt to find some more consistency at the end of the list, college goalkeepers now have a higher focus on their development as well as long term potential.


1. Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars / USA.1) - 29
2. Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride / USA.1) - 31
3. Brittany Cameron (Vegalta Sendai / Japan.1) - 30
4. Michelle Betos (Valerenga / Norway.1) - 29
5. Katie Fraine (Vittsjö GIK / Sweden.1) - 29
6. Michele Dalton (Chicago Red Stars / USA.1) - 28
7. Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City / USA.1) - 35
8. Haley Kopmeyer (Seattle Reign / USA.1) - 26
9. Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC / USA.1) - 26
10. Adelaide Gay (IBV / Iceland.1) – 27

Bill says: Naeher and Harris still top the list. Betos joins other top goalkeepers in leaving the NWSL, which simultaneously opens the door for Franch in Portland. Somehow Barnhart is defying the odds by still playing at a high level. Kopmeyer has twenty-seven NWSL starts entering the year but this is the first season Seattle has placed her as the undisputed starter and she’s more than ready for the season.


11. Libby Stout (Boston Breakers / USA.1) - 26
12. Hope Solo (Free Agent) - 35
13. Ashley Thompson (Sandviken / Norway.1) - 31
14. Brett Maron (Kristianstad / Sweden.1) - 30
15. Arianna Criscione (Kungsbacka / Sweden.1) - 32
16. Rebecca Ritchie (Real Salt Lake Women / USA.2W) - 29
17. Cat Parkhill (FC Kansas City / USA.1) - 26
18. Micaela Crowley (ÍR Reykjavík / Iceland.2) - 32
19. Aubrey Bledsoe (Orlando Pride / USA.1) - 25
20. Kaycee Gunion (San Diego Sea Lions / USA.2P) - 27

Bill says: WPSL goalkeepers are tough to track. One season they're there and the next they're not. Ritchie and Gunion have been two of the few consistent goalkeepers in the WPSL and should be returning for 2017. No word on Solo’s plans yet, although there are rumors of her going abroad. Adelaide Gay and Aubrey Bledsoe had some good highlights from 2016 and are looking to build off of them this year. Stout is still out for a few more weeks with an ankle injury.


21. Audrey Baldwin (FCF Juvisy / France.1) - 25
22. Didi Haracic (Washington Spirit / USA.1) - 25
23. Kelsey Wys (Washington Spirit / USA.1) - 26
24. Kelsey Quinn (Melbourne City / Australia.1) - 26
25. Nora Abolins (Östersund / Sweden.1) - 25
26. Britt Eckerstrom (Portland Thorns FC / USA.1) - 23
27. Caroline Stanley (Free Agent) - 24
28. Bryane Heaberlin (Turbine Potsdam / Germany.1) - 23
29. Megan Kufeld (Sundsvalls DFF / Sweden.2) - 24
30. Alyssa Giannetti (Arna-Bjørnar / Norway.1) – 22

Bill says: Giannetti returns to Arna-Bjørnar after being named Goalkeeper of the Year in her first year. Eckerstrom was traded to Portland and while she won't see a ton of playing time, she will be working with German legend Nadine Angerer in the meantime. Heaberlin spent preseason with the North Carolina Courage but should be returning to Germany for the spring. Stanley was competing for Sky Blue’s starting spot last year but hasn’t been connected with a team since.


31. Madalyn Schiffel (Seattle Reign / USA.1) - 22
32. Lindsey Harris (FH / Iceland.1) - 23
33. Abby Smith (Boston Breakers / USA.1) - 23
34. Brianna Smallidge (Seattle Reign Trialist) - 23
35. Sammy Jo Prudhomme (Boston Breakers / USA.1) - 23
36. Amanda Kopale (FC Kansas City Trialist) - 23
37. Kelsey Brouwer (Apollon Limassol / Cyprus.1) - 22
38. Kelsey Devonshire (FC Dallas / USA.2P) - 24
39. Katelyn Rowland (North Carolina FC / USA.1) – 23
40. Caroline Casey (Sky Blue FC / USA.1) - 22

Bill says: We're starting to see more trailists down this part of the list. Smallidge didn’t end up making the roster for Seattle but it sounds like there’s a good chance she’ll be training with the Reign, like she did with the Chicago Red Stars last year. After missing almost the entire 2016 season, Smith now has an opportunity to start with Stout missing the first month of the season. Madalyn Schiffel has most recently spent time with the U23s, although Harris and Rowland have USYNT experience too.


41. Jane Campbell (Houston Dash / USA.1) - 22
42. Lauren Watson (Keflavik FC / Iceland.3) - 23
43. Emily Dolan (Zaccaria / Italy.1) - 22
44. Ashton McKeown (Free Agent) - 22
45. Emily Armstrong (Portland Thorns Trialist) - 22
46. Holly Van Noord (Free Agent) - 22
47. Hannah Seabert (Orlando Pride Trialist) - 22
48. Kaela Little (FC Kansas City Trialist) – 22
49. Lillie Ehlert (Free Agent) - 22
50. Morgan Stearns (Sundsvalls DFF / Sweden.2) – 22

Bill says: Jane Campbell is easily the biggest name here. She recently earned her first cap for the national team, making her the only goalkeeper under 29 with a cap. Watson, Dolan, and Stearns are now all overseas and there's something to be said about graduating seniors not staying for their final spring semester. It may be a few years until we see them in the US again but they’ll come back with playing experience, an invaluable asset at the next level. Dolan has already started with Zaccaria and has so far helped her new club stay above relegation.


51. Sydney Lavan (Free Agent) - 22
52. Taylor Francis (Free Agent) - 22
53. Nicki Turley (Free Agent) - 22
54. Tarah Hobbs (Free Agent) - 21
55. Anna Buhigas (Chicago Red Stars Reserves / USA.2P) - 22
56. Kristyn Shea (Sky Blue FC Trialist) - 21
57. Kailey Norman (Free Agent) - 21
58. Danielle Rice (FC Kansas City Trialist) - 21
59. Caitlyn Clem (Wisconsin / USA.N) - 22
60. EJ Proctor (Duke / USA.N) – 21

Bill says: A number of senior graduates here. Shea and Rice have earned trials and while players like Buhigas have ties to reserve teams, there isn't a great turnover rate with WPSL goalkeepers making it as a professional. Even if a graduate does play in the summer league, it's still another eight or nine months until most leagues kick back up again in the spring. As for goalkeepers still in college, Clem and Proctor (highlights) and lead the pack for the fall.


61. Cassie Miller (Florida State / USA.N) - 22
62. Lauren Clem (Northwestern / USA.N) - 21
63. Taylor Sebolao (Towson / USA.N) - 21
64. Kat Elliott (South Florida / USA.N) - 21
65. Emily Boyd (California / USA.N) - 20
66. Jordan Sallee (UNLV / USA.N) - 21
67. Bella Geist (Oregon State / USA.N) - 21
68. Katie Hatziyianis (Binghamton / USA.N) - 20
69. Miranda Horn (George Washington / USA.N) - 21
70. Catherine Schmidt (IUPUI / USA.N) - 21

Bill says: A fair bit of USYNT prestige in this group. California's Emily Boyd spent time with the U20s last summer as they were gearing up for their World Cup. (Cal did a short feature on her in November.) Lauren Clem was named Third Team All-American last year. Lastly, Cassie Miller (three time Second Team All-ACC) returns for her final year at Florida State.


71. Alexis Smith (UC Davis / USA.N) – 21
72. Kelly O'Brien (Lafayette / USA.N) – 21
73. Sarah Le Beau (Auburn / USA.N) - 21
74. Erika Yohn (Purdue / USA.N) – 21
75. Maddie Ford (Loyola-Chicago / USA.N) – 21
76. Lexi Nicholas (Notre Dame / USA.N) - 21
77. Mikki Lewis (Troy University / USA.N) – 21
78. Juli Rossi (SIUE / USA.N) – 21
79. Casey Murphy (Rutgers / USA.N) – 21
80. Alyssa Heintschel (Ball State / USA.N) – 21

Bill says: Murphy missed Rutgers' last fall as she was busy playing for the US in the U20 World Cup. After sitting for most of last year, newly named senior captain Erika Yohn looks to rebound from last year’s 4-12-1 season. Similarly, Lexi Nicholas has more breathing room in net after stellar goalkeeper Kaela Little graduated last season. Le Beau and Heintschel look to build off of impressive runs in 2016, being named second and first team in their respective conferences.


81. Emily Harris (Villanova / USA.N) – 21
82. Ella Dederick (Washington State / USA.N) – 20
83. Charlee Pruitt (Loyola Marymount / USA.N) – 20
84. Rose Chandler (Penn State / USA.N) – 20
85. Lainey Burdett (Arizona / USA.N) - 20
86. Jalen Tompkins (Colorado / USA.N) – 20
87. Caroline Brockmeier (LSU / USA.N) – 20
88. Kelsey Dossey (Missouri / USA.N) – 20
89. Marnie Merritt (Mississippi / USA.N) – 20
90. Rachel Lusby (Portland / USA.N) – 20

Bill says: Dedrick (U19 camp), Pruitt (backup for 2016 U20 World Cup), and Brockmeier (U20 camp) are allearmarked with USYNT experience but it was Jalen Tompkins who had the save of the season last year. Brockmeier looks for a change of scenery, transferring out of Florida State and into LSU. Expect Lusby to take over the net this fall, after German goalkeeper Hanna de Haan graduated.


91. Brittney Rogers (UC Santa Barbara / USA.N) – 20
92. Cassidy Babin (Massachusetts / USA.N) - 20
93. Phallon Tullis-Joyce (Miami / USA.N) - 20
94. Samantha Leshnak (North Carolina / USA.N) - 20
95. Amanda Poertner (Idaho / USA.N) - 20
96. Katelyn Jensen (Maryland / USA.N) - 20
97. Kaelyn Johns (Dayton / USA.N) - 20
98. Morgan Beans (Virginia / USA.N) - 20
99. Olivia Swenson (North Dakota / USA.N) - 20
100. Parker Rytz (South Dakota / USA.N) – 20

Bill says: Poertner and Swenson return from season-ending injuries and can hopefully return to form quickly. And last but not least, US U20 alum Samantha Leshnak has been patiently waiting in the wing to start for the Tar Heels and 2017 will finally be her shot.

What Can the USWNT Learn About the USMNT's Goalkeeping Lull?

cover photo from USA Today

After hosting their second annual SheBelieves Cup, the US Women's National Team suffered a last place finish. The cup ended with a resounding 3-0 loss to France and while there was plenty of blame to share, many were left scratching their heads when looking at the goalkeeper position.

2017 could mark the start of the post-Hope Solo era. Solo amassed 202 caps and over a hundred shutouts dating back to 2000. But over the last decade, there has been little room in the USWNT for any other goalkeeper but Solo. The ever-reliable backup Nicole Barnhart earned 54 caps while Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris have now combined for a dozen appearances each. However, as we enter 2017, Alyssa Naeher is the only goalkeeper under thirty with any caps under her belt.

For both the men's and women's programs, the US has a habit of going all-in on a handful of goalkeepers, without worry that they'll need to strengthen the rest of the pool. While clubs are the bigger factor in developing a player, the national teams offer a gauge for just how well those players are being developed. If a national team isn't bringing in young players periodically, it isn't preparing for the next cycle as adequately as it should.

How the USMNT Got Here

In similar fashion, USYNT teams rarely bring in new competition for their starting goalkeepers. Goalkeepers will regularly start and finish a cycle, with little competition brought in to up the level of play. For every other goalkeeper in the US, they're left to play and practice as they wish. However, as the men's team is starting to realize now, focusing solely on a few goalkeepers for each U20 World Cup cycle isn't enough to create a steady stream of elite goalkeepers. Right now, the USMNT team should be turning to Brian Perk, Sean Johnson, or any other retired USYNT goalkeeper, but they aren't panning out. Colleges have picked the slack for years now, producing several top goalkeepers over the years, despite many not spending time with USYNT programs.

Another issue the USMNT faced was getting collegiate players to transition into MLS. Until five years ago, there wasn't much of a stepping stone between college and MLS. In 2015, the USL exploded, doubling the size of their league and offering more space to recent graduates. This created a nice progression for young goalkeepers to go to college, USL, then MLS, all the while getting playing time and appropriate competition. Players can skip certain levels if they're good enough but the bigger point is that the pyramid is fleshed out to give a variety of playing levels. Now the USMNT must figure out how to take players from MLS and place them into elite leagues. Europe isn't the solution for every player, nor will MLS ruin everyone's career, but in the last five years we've seen more players return to MLS instead of using it as a stepping stone elsewhere.

The women's game has a similar issue, although they aren't missing the elite league. The NWSL serves as the correct end piece but they don't have the appropriate stepping stone for seniors coming out of college.

NWSL Shortcomings

It's hard for young players to get playing time in the NWSL. The ten team league will always start a veteran over a young goalkeeper, as premier leagues should. On top of that, roster space is still very limited within the NWSL. Each NWSL signs only two goalkeepers while perhaps keeping an additional one in training, offering only housing and food to cover their time spent with the club. For the goalkeepers who don't make the cut as one of twenty goalkeepers in the NWSL, there isn't much left for them. There are over a hundred teams in amateur leagues (WPSL and UWS), but the summer leagues are best suited for collegiate athletes looking for a few games in the off-season. Even the quality of players in those leagues are often underwhelming, with the majority of the American-based players coming from Division II, Division III, or NAIA schools.

Some may look to NWSL expansion as a solution to getting more roster spots for goalkeepers. If the league were to double in size, goalkeepers would perhaps benefit then. As of right now, the league is slow to expand, only adding two teams in their five years. Right or wrong, steady expansion will do little to aide goalkeepers without clubs.

No Vacancy

Unfortunately the US isn't the place to develop goalkeepers. Graduated seniors don't need more training, they need playing time. Perhaps in five or ten years down when there are more teams for goalkeepers to fill, but in the meantime goalkeepers need clubs. Over the last couple years we've seen a number of collegiate seniors head to the land of opportunity: Europe.

Lindsey Harris (UNC '16) - FH, Iceland
Kelsey Brouwer (Middle Tennessee '16) - Apollon Limassol, Cyprus
Emily Dolan (FGCU '16) - Zaccaria, Italy
Morgan Stearns (UVA '16) - Sundsvalls, Sweden
Megan Kufeld (Washington '15) - Sundsvalls, Sweden
Madalyn Schiffel (San Francisco '15) - Avaldsnes, Norway *
Bryane Heaberlin (UNC '15) - Turbine Potsdam, Germany *
Alyssa Giannetti (Cal Poly '15) - Arna-Bjørnar, Norway
Kate Scheele (Colorado '15) - Kungsbacka, Sweden **

* - returned stateside
** - retired

Europe provides two important aspects in helping goalkeepers continue their development to become USWNT-ready. First is playing time. Goalkeeper development in Europe is still fairly thin for the women's side and every year the NCAA is producing hundreds of collegiate seniors, many of which are more than proficient enough to play somewhere in Europe. They would get the playing time that the NWSL can't promise them. Secondly, playing abroad strengthens a goalkeeper in a way playing domestically does not. Ask any professional overseas, playing abroad brings unique challenges on and off the field. It's easier to play in the US but if goalkeepers are looking to become elite, it won't be an easy road. Europe might not be the ideal place to develop goalkeepers, but it's better than what the US currently has to offer.

Realistic Solutions

If the USWNT wants to continue to develop elite goalkeepers, the focus shouldn't be on expanding the NWSL. Although there are many positives to expansion, it would create only a few more roster slots and ultimately do little to bolster the goalkeeping position. More professional teams in the US would be ideal, but it's far down the road from 2017. The USSF needs to find a solution to fill the gap between NCAA and NWSL. NCAA is producing at least a dozen goalkeepers every year that could make the jump to the professional ranks, but too many hang up the cleats after their collegiate career ends.

Currently Europe is in need of goalkeepers and we have too many to know what to deal with. If the USSF focused on placing ten collegiate seniors every year (2-4 in NWSL and 8-6 overseas) then keeping the depth chart full won't be an issue, not to mention crafting more elite goalkeepers. For players going overseas, they would only need to play overseas for two-three years before either coming back to the NWSL, or gaining a larger paycheck in a higher league in Europe.

The USSF can't let the NWSL solve all their developmental issues. It's a great league, but it has its limitations. The men's national team once held the world standard for goalkeeping but they're now left with zero elite goalkeepers. For the USWNT, there is much to learn about the men's situation, which could quickly become theirs if they're not paying attention.