A hard-nosed center forward, Wambach has recently embraced playing a role deeper in midfield for the United States, but don’t expect to see the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year stray too far away from her favorite spot on the field: in front of goal.
2 of 16Ray Carlin/Icon SMI
F Sydney Leroux, USA
Leroux enjoyed a stellar breakout onto the international scene with 14 goals in 2012, including a five-goal game in her hometown of Vancouver, B.C., against group-stage opponent Guatemala. She also scored four goals in one game in 2013 against Mexico, the U.S.’s biggest threat in these qualifiers.
3 of 16Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire
F Alex Morgan, USA
Despite an injury-addled 2014 season, Morgan remains the face of the American team and one of its biggest threats in attack. It took her over a year to start scoring again for the U.S. after an ankle injury that took a long time to heal, but she scored three goals against Mexico in the team’s most recent tune-up matches before qualifiers.
4 of 16Jerome Davis/Icon Sportswire
M Carli Lloyd, USA
She doesn’t have the name-brand recognition of the other U.S. stars on this list, but Lloyd is still one of the team’s most consistent players and an important cog in midfield. She’s the only player, male or female, to score the gold medal-winning goal in two separate Olympics, as she did in 2008 and 2012, when she scored both in a 2-1 win over Japan.
5 of 16George Frey/Getty Images
GK Hope Solo, USA
Despite her recent legal troubles and the attention that has come with it — she’s currently awaiting trial for domestic violence — Solo continues to play well for her country. She set the U.S. record for career shutouts with her 72nd in a friendly against Mexico in September.
6 of 16Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire
D Alina Garciamendez, Mexico
After starting for Mexico as a Stanford player at the 2011 World Cup, Garciamendez opted to go abroad for her rookie professional season in 2013 rather than joining the National Women’s Soccer League. The Texas-born defender signed with FFC Frankfurt in the Frauen Bundesliga.
7 of 16Chuck Myers/MCT via Getty Images
M Teresa Noyola, Mexico
Noyola won the Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s top player in 2011, when she played for Stanford. As a youth player, she represented the U.S. from the under-14 to under-20 level before joining Mexico in 2010, in time to play for El Tri in the 2011 World Cup.
8 of 16Rick Bowmer/AP
GK Cecilia Santiago, Mexico
Santiago made the World Cup roster for Mexico at age 16 in 2011, and she’s the youngest goalkeeper of either gender to play in a World Cup. Being the youngest player has become familiar territory for her, as she had just turned 14 at the 2008 Under-20 World Cup, and she played an important role in Mexico’s advancement to the quarterfinals in the 2010 edition of the same tournament.
9 of 16Ezequiel Becerra/AFP/Getty Images
F Daphne Herrera, Costa Rica
Two months after playing for Costa Rica in the Under-20 World Cup, 18-year-old Herrera (right) will be with the senior team as it attempts to qualify for its first World Cup. Costa Rica only scored two goals at the tournament, and Herrera scored the first, in a 5-1 loss to France in the opening group game.
10 of 16Xavier Laine/Bongarts/Getty Images
MF Shirley Cruz, Costa Rica
Cruz has spent her entire professional career in France’s Ligue 1 Féminine, first at Lyon from 2006 to 2012 before moving to Paris Saint-Germain. She has won two UEFA Champions League titles, two French Cups and six Ligue 1 titles, as well as scoring 18 goals in 29 caps for the Ticos.
11 of 16Jae C. Hong/AP
D Alicia Wilson, Jamaica
Jamaica’s captain is an assistant coach at University of West Florida, where she rejoined the coaching staff last year after playing professionally in Iceland and Costa Rica. The 35-year-old quit playing for the national team after its failed World Cup bid in 2006, but she returned to play in the Caribbean Cup in June and will lead her country out this month again.
12 of 16Scott A. Miller/AP
F Shakira Duncan, Jamaica
Another West Florida connection on the Jamaican squad and the team’s go-to goalscorer, Duncan played for the Argos after transferring from Darton State College. She was the Ron Lenz National Player of the Year both seasons after scoring a program-record 33 goals and 13 assists in 2009, following up with another 31 goals and 12 assists in 2010.
13 of 16Arnulfo Franco/AP
D Daniela Andrade, Guatemala
Andrade is a senior at University of South Florida, where she plays as an outside back. She’s been an important part of the Bulls team since her sophomore year, but she has been a part of the senior national set-up for even longer, since Guatemala’s last World Cup qualifying campaign, when it lost to the U.S. 9-0 in the group stage.
14 of 16Rich Lam/Getty Images
F Maria Monterroso, Guatemala
Another collegiate player, Monterroso plays college ball for Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. She is the Antelopes’ leading scorer this year with six goals, following up on a 20-goal 2012 freshman season at Lyon College in the NAIA.
15 of 16Chris Hyde/Getty Images
F Kennya Cordner, Trinidad & Tobago
Cordner briefly joined the Seattle Reign during the 2013 NWSL season, when Seattle desperately needed a goalscorer, and Cordner had scored four goals in three appearances for the Reign Reserves. In 2014, she played for the Seattle Sounders Women and led the team with eight goals in just seven appearances.
16 of 16Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images
F Ahkeela Mollon, Trinidad & Tobago
Mollon has played most of her professional career in northern Europe, floating between Iceland and Sweden. She will miss Kvarnsveden’s final match of the season due to national-team commitments, but her team can finish no higher than third, which is one spot short of promotion to Sweden’s top league, the Damallsvenskan.
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