A decision made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday will change Olympic soccer rosters from 18 to 22 players, addressing challenges teams faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teams are now allowed 22 players on their squads for the Tokyo Olympics but will still have to keep 18 on team sheets on matchdays. Under the previous rules, teams were required to name four alternates, but could only call on them as replacements for injured players, and the players who had been replaced would no longer be eligible to participate in the tournament.
Wednesday was the last day for countries participating in the Olympic soccer tournament to finalize their rosters.
A primary advocate for the expansion of the Olympic soccer rosters was Sarina Wiegman, the manager of the Netherlands’ women’s national team, who argued the increased rosters were necessary to deal with the compact soccer calendar over the past several months brought about by the pandemic. With Wiegman’s efforts, FIFA, the highest governing body of association football, offered support and appealed to the IOC.
This expansion makes alternates part of the full roster and directly impacts the alternates named to the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) Olympic roster.
Alternates goalkeeper Jane Campbell, defender Casey Krueger, midfielder Catarina Macario and forward Lynn Williams will now be considered a part of the full roster and will be eligible to participate in games. Although details are not public, it is presumed that teams will not be able to add more alternates beyond the players who have already been named.
The expansion was welcome news to USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski, who previously expressed a desire to expand Olympic rosters. The change will allow him more flexibility in rotating players out of the heat and humidity and giving them more rest throughout the tournament. The addition of four more players also brings down the average age of the U.S. players from over 30 to a younger lineup, lessening the load on aging stars such as Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe.
The USWNT will step onto the field at Tokyo Stadium for their first match of the Olympic Games on July 21 against Sweden.