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Do you hear that chorus of relieved sighs? That would be the players on the U.S. women's soccer team. Yes, the 21-player roster for the Women's World Cup has officially been announced (barring injuries). And there are still 50 days until their first game -- that's like 50 dog years when we're talking roster-naming time frames. All I can remember from before World Cups was the overriding (and very stressful) thought: "Seriously, when is the coach going to announce the final roster?" Two to four weeks out is typical for the announcement, so as a player, knowing nearly two months ahead of time is like Christmas in May ... in Hawaii ... holding a sweet drink with an umbrella ... while getting a massage.
But I digress. Here are the top five things that came to mind when I saw the final U.S. roster:
1. Healthy and happy.
Hope Solo (just back from shoulder surgery), Abby Wambach (just returning from Achilles' tendonitis) and Heather Mitts (just back from a partially torn hamstring) all made the squad. Good timing for Team USA. And three other members of the team fought through injuries all of last year and are back to 100 percent: Tobin Heath (ankle surgery), Carli Lloyd (ankle reconstruction) and Lindsay Tarpley (ACL injury).
2. Only one player on the team has won a World Cup.
That's captain Christie Rampone. Rampone will be in her fourth World Cup and is the only player left from the 1999 team. We easily forget that that was the last time the U.S. won the Cup. (Or, more accurately, I'm still trying to forget that the Germans have won the past two: 2003 and 2007.)
3. No Kristine Lilly.
It feels just plain strange. I miss her already. She's played in every Women's World Cup there has ever been: 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007. But I guess everyone is allowed to retire.
4. Twelve players on the roster have never been to a World Cup.
But this team does not lack experience: 14 of the 21 players played in the 2008 Olympics, which the U.S. won. And the average age is 27.4. (That's the second-highest for a U.S. World Cup team and, mind you, that is without Kristine Lilly. Sorry, Lil!)
5. Young potential stars.
We've seen flashes of greatness from Megan Rapinoe, and I can't wait to see more this summer. Can she bring it consistently? And Alex Morgan, the youngest player on the team at 21, is fast. She won't be a starter, but she's a great asset coming off the bench. And she's already scored some big, big goals for the U.S. Just ask Italy.
So here we go. Twenty-one players. Sixteen teams. One cup. June 26 is opening day of the Women's World Cup. Be there or be talked about ... in German (and my German ain't pretty).