The U.S. women’s national soccer team will look to defend its crown when the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off July 20. The U.S. beat Wales 2-0 in its send-off match on July 9, before boarding a flight to New Zealand.

This team looks vastly different from the team that won the 2019 World Cup. Head coach Jill Ellis stepped down. Carli Lloyd retired. Megan Rapinoe remained on the bench — she announced her retirement from professional soccer earlier this month.

How the 2023 FIFA World Cup will be different

The pressure was on in 2019 for the U.S. to become back-to-back champions, and the team delivered by becoming the first nation to win the World Cup four times. But that pressure has only increased this year, and head coach Vlatko Andonovski is aware of it.

“Would I be happy with anything short of a third straight win? No, absolutely not,” he said at the team’s media day on June 27, according to Just Women’s Sports. “Our goal is to win the World Cup, there’s no question about it.”

Here are five storylines to watch as the U.S. heads into this summer’s World Cup:

Is Vlatko Andonovski on the hot seat?

Coach Vlatko Andonovski was given the difficult task of inheriting a back-to-back World Cup winning team and sustaining that team’s success. He started the first year and a half of his tenure unbeaten until the U.S. failed to make the finals in the Tokyo Olympics for only the second time in the team’s history, USA Today reported.

Then in 2022, the team lost two, which later became three, consecutive games for the first time since 2017, according to The Athletic. The U.S. has appeared to right the ship, going undefeated and winning the She Believes Cup and their four friendlies earlier this year.

U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski, right, and forward Megan Rapinoe (15) laugh after the team’s win against Canada during a SheBelieves Cup soccer match Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. Rapinoe was one of the veterans selected Wednesday, June 21, 2023, for the United States team that will defend its title at the Women’s World Cup next month. | Phelan M. Ebenhack, Associated Press

Those losses do come with a caveat though. They came on the heels of the release of the Sally Yates report that found “systemic abuse” in the National Women’s Soccer League, where most of the team’s players play.

The U.S. is ranked as FIFA’s No. 1 team and has never finished outside the top three in the eight Women’s World Cups since the inaugural tournament in 1991. If the team breaks that streak this summer, fans will be calling for Andonovski’s termination. With the team’s long history of success, fans could have the same reaction even if the U.S. finishes third.

Can the U.S. make history?

In 2019, the U.S. became the first nation to win four World Cups. It also became the second nation to win the tournament back-to-back.

The U.S. could make history again this year by becoming the first team to win three consecutive World Cups, something that’s never been done by a women’s or men’s team.

How much will the team miss its injured stars?

Mallory Swanson, formerly Mallory Pugh, was off to a hot start with seven goals in six starts for the U.S. this year and was primed to dominate in the World Cup until she tore her patellar tendon in April.

This summer would be her redemption tour after she had been left off the Tokyo Olympics roster when Andonovski took over, despite starting in the 2016 Olympics and playing in the 2019 World Cup. She’ll have to wait until next year’s Olympics.

Former BYU star Ashley Hatch left off United States World Cup roster

Swanson wasn’t the only injury loss for the U.S. this World Cup. Team captain and former Utah Royals defender Becky Sauerbrunn suffered a foot injury in April. She was expected to be ready for the World Cup, but sources told ESPN that Sauerbrunn experienced a setback earlier this month in her first match back for the Portland Thorns.

Sauerbrunn announced she would miss the World Cup in a Twitter statement, saying she was “heartbroken” to miss the World Cup but her team has her “unwavering support” and “unyielding belief.”

Is the team too ‘young’?

At the Olympics, critics claimed the team was too “old” with the team’s average age being 30, but if the U.S. fails to meet expectations, critics could be saying the opposite about this World Cup team.

Fourteen of the 23 players are going to their first World Cup. Three players — Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and former Utah Royals defender Kelley O’Hara — are going to their fourth.

This team’s average age is 28 with the youngest being 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson and the oldest 38-year-old Rapinoe. The roster also features 25-year-old Savannah Demelo, who has never suited up for the national team.

If you want to feel old, forward Sophia Smith told reporters on Tuesday that she’s never used a CD player.

Team of moms

This year’s roster features three players playing in their first World Cup since becoming moms: Morgan, Crystal Dunn and Julie Ertz. All three were on the 2019 team.

Morgan gave birth to daughter Charlie in 2020 and was committed to making the Olympic roster. The pandemic bought Morgan another year to get into Olympic shape. Three-year-old Charlie has become a staple at her mom’s games and press conferences, often stealing the show.

“This is my first World Cup as a mom, so I just want to also just represent mom athletes,” she said in a post-game press conference, per Francisco Velasco. “And the accomplishments and strides we’ve been able to make in women’s soccer I think is amazing.

The team’s star forward said Charlie will be coming for most of the World Cup and is looking forward to swimming every day, USA Today’s Nancy Armour reported.

“I have to break it to her that it’s winter there,” Morgan said.

Dunn gave birth to son Marcel in May 2022 and had been training with the Portland Thorns, her NWSL team while nine months pregnant, the Deseret News previously reported. Five months after giving birth, Dunn scored a game-winning goal to send the Thorns to the NWSL championship.

Ertz hadn’t played professional soccer since 2021 but made her return to the national team and the NWSL in April. She had been rehabbing a knee injury and then took time off after giving birth to son Madden in August. She is married to Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz.