United States women's national team forward Catarina Macario will not be available for World Cup selection this summer, she said in a statement on Tuesday. She announced on her social media that she will not be "physically ready" ahead of the final USWNT World Cup roster selection. The 23-year-old suffered a torn ACL last June, has gone through rehab, and while she has been preparing to return, she has not played with her current club team Olympique Lyon.
"While I'm excited and optimistic about my future as a footballer. I'm sad to share that I won't be physically ready for selection to our U.S. World Cup team."
"The desire to return to play for my club and country has driven my training and fueled my everyday life. However, what's most important right now is my health and getting fit and ready for my next club season."
When injuries spoil the vision
Macario's ACL injury last June came shortly after she became the first American to score in a UEFA women's Champions League final. She aided Lyon in a 3-1 victory over FC Barcelona to claim Lyon's eighth UWCL title and was the club's top goal scorer with 23 goals in the same year. However, she tore her ACL just 13 minutes into Lyon's final league match of the season, a lopsided 4-0 win against Issy.
The injury has kept her out of key build-up to the World Cup, including the Concacaf W Championship, which the USWNT won, qualifying them for both the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympic games. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski and the coaching staff were clearly setting the script for an attacking team that centered around Mallory Swanson, Sophia Smith, and Macario. With the idea to have veteran players more as supporting pieces with their experience to fill the gaps when needed during specific in-game scenarios.
Andonovski confirmed in postgame comments during the team's April international window against Ireland, that they would've been centered and built around Smith and Swanson. Even after Macario's injury, the recent run of form by Alex Morgan in 2022 -- and now 2023 -- the vision has shifted once more with a torn patella tendon injury to Swanson that is likely to keep her out of the World Cup as well.
In 2023 there was hope that Macario could return to national team camps, as early as March, and she has since been on the road to recovery with Aspetar Orthopedic and sports medicine hospital. As she spent time in Qatar while rehabbing, that timeline kept getting pushed back, and now she is officially out of contention.
What comes next
Macario's contract with Lyon is set to expire and she is currently reportedly going to sign with the Women's Super League side Chelsea. She joined Lyon in 2021 out of Stanford University where she scored 63 goals in 68 matches and is expected to sign with the Blues subject to medical clearance.
With Macario officially out of running for World Cup selection, it means the coaching staff will have another spot to fill on the final roster. While she was typically listed as a midfielder on USWNT rosters, she could feature as a false nine, or a more traditional lead along the top line. Her versatility is an asset and it's apparent the USWNT views her as a long-term player for the future.
There are multiple players on the bubble that may be considered moving forward, including Washington Spirit's Ashley Sanchez and Ashley Hatch. Two players who are listed in different positions and featured across specific lines, but have also been called into camps over the last year and are familiar with team expectations. But losing both Swanson and now Macario could mean there is room on the roster specifically for a creative, agile, attacking player.
Angel City FC forward Alyssa Thompson was called into national team camps immediately following Swanson's injury and played the entirety of the second friendly against Ireland, a 1-0 win to close out the team's final international window before the roster it named. The 18-year-old was drafted No. 1 overall and has since made an early case for Rookie of the Year with four goals scored across all competitions.
The USWNT will play a final friendly against Wales on July 9 in San Jose, California. The team will then head to New Zealand where they will play the entirety of their World Cup group stage. The World Cup kicks off in two months on July 20, and the USWNT opens up group play against Vietnam on July 21.