The U.S. women's national team has successfully defended its crown, winning the 2019 Women's World Cup in France, and that is cause for special treatment from Sports Illustrated.
Four years ago when the U.S. women won the World Cup, they did it on a magazine dark week for Sports Illustrated. With no issue to print, we commemorated their victory with a special digital cover—then came back the following week with one of the most ambitious projects in the magazine’s 65-year history. We published 25 different covers for that week’s issue: one for each of the 23 players and coach Jill Ellis, plus a group shot. Four years later, we’re in the opposite situation: We closed an issue with an instant-classic cover the day after the USWNT defeated the Netherlands in the final, but didn’t have time for the kind of unique photo shoot the accomplishment deserves.
Until now. SI caught up with the USWNT before it was honored with a ticker-tape parade in New York City on July 10 and shot portraits of each player and Ellis with the World Cup trophy. The result: 24 commemorative digital covers celebrating the 2019 champions.
All images taken by Erick W. Rasco
MEGAN RAPINOE, ALEX MORGAN
The two combined for 12 of the USA's 26 goals in France, with Rapinoe's penalty kick–drawn by Morgan–the eventual game-winning goal in the final. Morgan scored five of her goals in a record-tying performance vs. Thailand, but she saved her most crucial tally for the semifinals, with her header the eventual game-winner vs. England.
The USA's 24-year-old breakout star scored the fantastic goal that sealed the final victory over the Netherlands, overcoming a hamstring injury suffered in the semifinals to truly shine on the biggest stage.
Questioned by plenty due to her inexperience in major tournaments–at no fault of her own–Naeher was immense when called upon. Her penalty save vs. England will go down in U.S. women's national team lore, but it shouldn't overshadow a sprawling save made earlier in the game, which came moments after the go-ahead goal from Morgan.
BECKY SAUERBRUNN, ABBY DAHLKEMPER
The regular starting central defenders were part of a unit that conceded just three goals all tournament and posted clean sheets throughout the group stage and the final. Dahlkemper, whose long-range passing was an immense weapon out of the back, was the only outfield player to start all seven games, and she played all but eight minutes in France.
SAM MEWIS, JULIE ERTZ, LINDSEY HORAN
The strength in the U.S. midfield was such that Horan, the reigning NWSL MVP and widely considered to be one of the top players in the world, was often a reserve. When called upon, she delivered, most notably with her assist to Morgan vs. England. Mewis's rise and consistent influence made it tough to strip her starting job, while Ertz was her usual force in the center of the field, playing an invaluable role on a second straight World Cup title team–doing so at a second position.
TOBIN HEATH, CARLI LLOYD, CHRISTEN PRESS
The U.S. enjoyed attacking depth like no other team in the world. Heath was a regular starter, while Lloyd played a key role in the group stage four years after her golden ball performance in Canada. Press was called upon as a starter in the semifinals, and she delivered immediately with a 10th-minute header that calmed all nerves following Rapinoe's sudden absence. Her goal celebration to honor her late mother was one of the most poignant moments of the competition.
KELLEY O'HARA, CRYSTAL DUNN, ALI KRIEGER
O'Hara and Dunn performed admirably at fullback, taming three of Europe's most vaunted attacks en route to the title. For Dunn, especially, the spotlight was on her and her matchups, given she's not a left back at the club level, and she aced her tests. Krieger, meanwhile, completed a storybook return to the national team after two years in the international wilderness and wound up with the ball at her foot as the final whistle sounded vs. the Netherlands, cementing her as a two-time champion.
MALLORY PUGH, TIERNA DAVIDSON, EMILY SONNETT
These three represent the new guard for the U.S., and while they didn't play as much as they'd probably have hoped to in France, the future is bright for all of them. Pugh, 21, scored one of the record-setting 13 goals vs. Thailand, while Davidson, 20, started and helped the U.S. keep a clean sheet vs. Chile and Sonnett, 25, came on for the final eight minutes of that match to close it out.
ALLIE LONG, MORGAN BRIAN, JESSICA MCDONALD
Minutes were hard to come by for this trio, though all three saw the field in France. Brian is now a two-time champion, while Long and McDonald bask in the glow of their first titles. McDonald's interactions with her son–she's the only mother on the team–made for some of the more touching images all month.
ASHLYN HARRIS, ADRIANNA FRANCH
Neither backup goalkeeper played a minute in France, but that's how you know that things went the way they were intended. Harris emerged as the star of the post-title celebrations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, while both return to their NWSL clubs, where they've combined to win the league's last three Goalkeeper of the Year awards.
The only manager to win two Women's World Cups–doing so back-to-back no less–Ellis left her detractors with little to say. Her moves in preparation for and during the Women's World Cup paid off, and she guided a talented team full of strong personalities back to the top of the mountain with little care for a turn in the spotlight.