Austin continues to reap the benefits of having and rabidly supporting an MLS team.
The city will be the site of the U.S. women’s national team’s annual January training camp, it was announced Wednesday, with the team conducting its sessions Wednesday through Jan. 28 at Austin FC’s training facility in North Austin.
No matches will take place here, but the camp serves as preparation for the SheBelieves Cup, which will hold matches in both Carson, Calif., and Frisco in late February.
“Austin FC and Austin as a city have shown they can be great hosts,” national team coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “We were there in June and had a great experience. The facility is supernice, and all the amenities they offered are great. And the weather should be good, so it wasn’t a hard choice to go to Austin.”
The team opened Q2 Stadium June 16 with a 2-0 win over Nigeria in a friendly match, and that experience of playing in front of more than 20,000 fans obviously helped in the decision to return to Austin.
Andonovski has called to town 25 mostly younger players for the camp at the start of an important year for the team, with qualifying for the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics beginning in the summer.
The most notable player coming to Austin might be Washington Spirit forward Trinity Rodman, who was the NWSL Rookie of the Year and the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year in 2021.
Rodman, 19, is making her first appearance with the senior team in this camp. The daughter of former NBA All-Star Dennis Rodman, she was the youngest player ever to be drafted by the NWSL and is actually still eligible to play in the under-20 World Cup this summer in Costa Rica.
“Trinity was one of the most exciting players in the NWSL last season,” Andonovski said. “She proved that she can be impactful on the professional level, and with that she’s earned a callup. She’s still a young player, and we don’t want to rush her, but we want to expose her to the national team environment and my coaching style.”
It could be a bit of a transition period for the team as it looks to possibly take on a youth movement.
Longtime forward Carli Lloyd, 39, retired after a 16-year run on the team in August, and entrenched players such as Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn — both of whom turn 37 this summer — and Alex Morgan have been on the senior team for more than a decade.
The majority of the roster coming to Austin has 12 caps or fewer, and nine of the players are 24 or younger.
“With bringing the young players into the system, we’re hoping for them to understand our principles and game model, as well as look at seeing if we think they’re going to fulfill the tasks we need them to for the qualifiers,” Andonovski said. “We’ll evaluate all the players in this camp and then start making decisions for future camps. But the older players are not out of the picture just because they’re not here.”
For the SheBelieves Cup, the national team will play the Czech Republic on Feb. 17 and New Zealand on Feb. 20 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, then return to Texas to play Iceland on Feb. 23 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco.
U.S. women's national team roster in Austin
Goalkeepers (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
Defenders (9): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Imani Dorsey (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)
Midfielders (7): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Samantha Mewis (Kansas City Current), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
Forwards (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current)
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: USWNT returns to Austin to train at Austin FC's training facility