The countdown to the 2021 Olympic women's soccer competition begins on Monday when the USA hosts Colombia in the first of two friendlies played at Orlando's Exploria Stadium.
Vlatko Andonovski brought in 27 players for the camp. When you add two-time world champions Alex Morgan (COVID positive), Tobin Heath and Christen Press (both at Manchester United), who are not at the camp, that's a pool of 30 players he will have to whittle to 18 players for the Olympics.
The games against Colombia on Monday and Friday will give fans of just how hard that task will be as Andonovski will dress only 18 players for each game.
Here are three key things to look for from the 2021 opener ...
1. Macario set to make her U.S. debut up front. Less than a week after she signed with French club Lyon and was cleared by FIFA to represent the USA, Brazilian-born Catarina Macario will make her international debut.
Andonovski described Macario as "an exceptional player with exceptional potential" but smart enough to understand this is just the beginning.
"Getting her [citizenship] papers was hard, and getting the approval from FIFA was another battle she had to face off the field," he said. "And now the real battle starts. She is battling for a spot on the best team in the world and that's the hardest battle."
Macario will likely play up front, the closer to the goal the better, Andonovski said, to take advantage of her goal-scoring abilities.
2. Rapinoe and Lloyd return after 10-month absence. The last time Andonovski had veterans Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe in camp was at the SheBelieves Cup in March 2020. They both skipped all NWSL activity and the two fall national team camps in 2020.
He is pleased with what he has seen from Lloyd, 38, and Rapinoe, 35, and said they are probably going to play in both games against Colombia.
"Both Carli and Pinoe look better than what we expected," he said. "Also, they look better than last time we saw them in terms of physical preparedness and mental preparedness."
3. Sauerbrunn best fit for national team captain. Lloyd, Morgan and Rapinoe served as co-captains when the USA swept all seven games at the 2019 Women's World Cup, but Andonovski has handed the captain's armband to another veteran, 35-year-old defender Becky Sauerbrunn.
The move came as no surprise. She played her first five NWSL seasons for FC Kansas City, where Andonovski was her coach. She was the NWSL Defender of the Year in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and won NWSL championships in 2014 and 2015.
"Becky and I obviously go way back," he said, "but that is not why she is the captain on this team. What she did in Kansas City was incredible and I will always respect that. But on the national team, I had a chance to analyze not just her but everybody in terms of what their role is and impact is on the field and off the field, travels, hotels, anywhere. With all the analysis, we felt Becky was the best fit to be the captain of the national team."
Andonovski said he ran his decision past Lloyd, Morgan and Rapinoe, and they were supportive of the move.
"I wanted everyone to understand that Carli, Pinoe and Alex are very important for this environment," he said. "They are great leaders, they have impacted this team with their leadership skills but going forward Becky will need them. It’s hard to lead this team as an individual. Leadership is a group role and Becky will need them, I will need them and this team will need them."
GOALKEEPERS (4): Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).
DEFENDERS (10): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Abby Dahlkemper (Man. City/ENG), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit).
MIDFIELDERS (8): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Jaelin Howell (Florida State Univ.), Rose Lavelle (Man. City/ENG), Catarina Macario (Lyon/FRA), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Man. City/ENG), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).
FORWARDS (5): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (NC Courage).