May 2, 2019 / 6:30 PM / 22 days ago

U.S. banking on experience in women's World Cup defense

(Reuters) - The United States will be counting on experience as they look to defend their women’s World Cup crown in France with coach Jill Ellis announcing a squad on Thursday that features 12 members of the team who lifted the trophy in 2015.

FILE PHOTO - Mar 5, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; United States forward Tobin Heath (17) and forward Alex Morgan (13) and forward Mallory Pugh (11) celebrate after a goal during the first half against Brazil during a She Believes Cup women's soccer match at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Leading the squad is veteran forward Carli Lloyd, the Golden Ball winner in 2015 who was named to her fourth World Cup.

Defenders Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Ali Krieger, and forwards Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan will be making their third consecutive appearance in the global showcase tournament. The roster averages 80 international caps per player.

Although the 23 player roster is dominated by familiar names, their are 11 new faces about to be put in the World Cup pressure cooker for the first time.

“Coming out of the Olympics it was looking at just not player personnel but profiles, what kind of players, where were things headed, where we trending and making sure we had players to fill those needs and being able to contribute to where I envisioned the game going four years on,” Ellis said during a conference call.

“What we’ve come to is exactly that, a team with great energy, a team with great experience.

“Even though there is younger players, I think those players have been with us for awhile and have experience a lot of top quality matches.”

The Americans will be bidding to win the World Cup for a fourth time.

The U.S. and Japan have clashed in the last two World Cup finals, the Americans winning it in 2015 and Japan taking home the trophy in 2011.

“Today a lot of countries have a lot of players with a lot of experience,” said Ellis. “As it relates to my decisions and this team when you look at a player you say ok, has this player been on that stage before, that is certainly a bonus.

“No one I feel on this roster, based on their psychological makeup, is going to melt in this pressure cooker.”

With their opening match just 40 days away, the U.S. squad will report to training camp in Northern California and play three friendlies before heading to Europe.

The U.S. take on South Africa in Santa Clara, California on May 12, face New Zealand on May 16 in St. Louis and Mexico on May 26 in Harrison, New Jersey.

The World Cup will run from June 7 to July 7 with the final to be played at the Stade de Lyon in the south of France.

The top-ranked U.S. will open Group F play against Thailand on June 11 in Reims.

The U.S. also play Chile on June 16 in Paris and Sweden on June 20 in Le Havre.

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond

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