Women’s World Cup full of players with Triangle connections

Seven of the 23 players on the top-ranked U.S. squad at the Women’s 2019 FIFA World Cup have a connection to the Triangle.

Some play for the NC Courage and the rest once played for North Carolina. Of the seven, five are making their World Cup debut, and several had a hand in the U.S.’s 13-0 drubbing of Thailand on Tuesday — the largest margin of victory in the tournament’s history.

Outside of the USWNT, several NC Courage and former Triangle-college student-athletes are playing for their home countries.

Here’s a closer look at each player competing in this year’s World Cup.

Crystal Dunn

United States defender Crystal Dunn, front, fires the ball past Australia forward Hayley Raso during the second half of an international friendly soccer match Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Commerce City, Colo. The United States won 5-3. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) Associated Press

Now that she’s on the USWNT for a World Cup, Crystal Dunn has (almost) done it all.

A New York native, Dunn, 26, played for Anson Dorrance at UNC from 2010-13. She was a first-team All-ACC selection in each of her four years there and won a national championship in 2012.

Dunn was also named the 2012 Hermann Trophy winner — college soccer’s most prestigious accolade — ACC Athlete of the Year and ACC Defender of the Year in her tenure.

Out of college, the 5-1, 119-pound defender was the first overall pick in the 2014 NWSL draft. She played for the Washington Spirit and England’s Chelsea before landing with the North Carolina Courage in 2018. She still plays for the team today.

Tuesday marked Dunn’s World Cup debut.

Samantha Mewis

Samantha Mewis, above, of North Carolina Courage wins a header against Lindsay Elston, below, of Seattle Reign. North Carolina Courage played Seattle Reign in a women soccer game that took place at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. on Saturday, July 8, 2017. North Carolina Courage won 2-0.

Samantha Mewis, a 5-11 midfielder from Weymouth, Mass., played for UCLA from 2011-14 and has been on the NC Courage since 2017.

In her two full seasons on the Courage (2017-18), Mewis notched 10 goals and five assists. She was called up to the U.S. Women’s National Team for the Tournament of Nations in July 2018. Prior to that, she was drafted fourth overall by the WNY Flash and was a Rookie of the Year finalist in 2015.

The 26-year-old scored two goals in her World Cup debut earlier this week.

Jessica McDonald

The Courage’s Jessica McDonald brings the ball upfield during the North Carolina Courage victory over the Portland Thorns during a National Women’s Soccer League at WakeMed Soccer Park in August 2018. Brad Smith

Jessica McDonald, originally from Phoenix, Ariz., played as a Tar Heel for a pair of seasons (2008-09) after transferring from Phoenix College.

In 2010, she made five appearances for the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL and bounced around the league seven times in as many years before landing with the NC Courage in 2017.

This is the 5-10, 139-pound forward’s first time on this stage.

Tobin Heath

United States’ Tobin Heath (17) reacts to a tackle by England’s Alex Greenwood during the first half of a SheBelieves Cup women’s soccer match Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. Mike Carlson AP

UNC alum Tobin Heath, 31, is among the most experienced players on this year’s USWNT.

This go-around marks her third World Cup, and she’s one of five players to own double-figure World Cup caps, a term that refers to how many international matches a player has played in. Also of note, Heath scored a goal in the final match of the 2015 World Cup, when the USWNT won it all.

Prior to that, the forward won three national championships during her career at UNC (2006-09).

Ashlyn Harris

United States goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris is introduced during a send-off ceremony ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup after an international friendly soccer match against Mexico, Sunday, May 26, 2019, in Harrison, N.J. The U.S. won 3-0. Julio Cortez AP

Hailing from Satellite Beach, Fla., Ashlyn Harris is one of three goalkeepers on the team’s final roster and is playing in her second World Cup.

Harris (5-9, 146 pounds) played for the Tar Heels from 2006-09, where she and teammate Tobin Heath won three national titles together.

Winning on the international stage isn’t new for Harris. The goalkeeper — then just 16 years old — played every minute of the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup, when that team won the tournament.

Allie Long

FILE - In this April 5, 2018, file photo, United States’ Allie Long (20) blocks Mexico’s Renae Cuellar (21) path to the goal during the second half of an international friendly soccer match, in Jacksonville, Fla. Defender Ali Krieger and midfielders Allie Long and Morgan Brian have been included on the U.S. national team roster for the Women’s World Cup in France. All three were widely considered on the bubble for the 23-player roster announced Thursday, May 2, 2019, by coach Jill Ellis. The United States is the defending champion of soccer’s premier tournament, which starts on June 7. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) John Raoux AP

Allie Long, a Tar Heel from 2005-08, is also making her first World Cup appearance in 2019.

The 5-8, 130-pound midfielder from East Northport, N.Y., currently plays for Seattle Reign FC. In 2018, she scored three goals and had one assist in 20 matches played for the club.

Abby Dahlkemper

U.S. defender Abby Dahlkemper (7) during the first half of an international friendly soccer match against South Africa in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, May 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Nic Coury) Nic Coury AP

Abby Dahlkemper, a 5-7 defender from Lancaster, Penn., is also playing in her first World Cup in 2019.

Dahlkemper helps lead the NC Courage’s back line. In her last full season on the team, she played 1880 minutes in 21 games and was named to the 2018 NWSL Best XI — one of the league’s highest honors.

Lucy Bronze

Lucy Bronze (22) looks for pass option during an International Champions league Cup match between Manchester City and Olympique Lyonnais at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Thursday, July 26, 2018. Sam Navarro

Lucy Bronze, a 5-7, 143-pound defender from Northumberland, England, played for the Tar Heels in 2009, and has been part of the English national team since 2007. She plays for Olympique Lyon in France.

This year marks Bronze’s second appearance at a World Cup.

Katie Bowen

FCKC 072217_01.JPG
FCKC’s Katie Bowen was fouled on this shot by North Carolina’s Abby Erceg at the soccer match between FC Kansas City and the North Carolina Courage at Swope Park Soccer Village in Kansas City, Mo. on July 22, 2017. Andy Lundberg Special to The Kansas City Star

Katie Bowen is competing in her second World Cup on New Zealand’s squad.

Bowen, who graduated from UNC in 2016, redshirted what would have been her senior year to compete for her country’s national team in 2015. She’s among the most recent Tar Heel graduates to win a women’s soccer national championship.

In 2015, Bowen (5-7, 123 pounds) played in all three of New Zealand’s games. She plays for Utah Royals FC in Salt Lake City.


Brazil’s Debinha, center, tries to score past Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider during the Women’s World Cup Group C soccer match between Brazil and Jamaica in Grenoble, France, Sunday, June 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani) Laurent Cipriani AP

Courage forward Debinha started and played the full 90 minutes for Brazil in its 3-0 win over Jamaica on Sunday.

Debinha (5-6, 143 pounds) is making her second World Cup appearance — and came into the tournament with 47 caps and 16 goals already on her international resume.

Stephanie Labbé

Team Canada’s goalkeeper goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe makes a save during a practice session in Edmonton, Alberta, on Friday June 5, 2015. Canada takes on China in their first Women’s World Cup match on Saturday June 6, 2015. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT JASON FRANSON AP

Stephanie Labbé, a goalkeeper for the NC Courage, started in goal and recorded a clean sheet in Canada’s 1-0 win over Cameroon on Monday.

Labbé (5-10, 139 pounds) joined the Courage in February.

She will likely start in goal against New Zealand on Saturday as well, competing against Courage teammate Abby Erceg.

Abby Erceg

New Zealand’s Abby Erceg, right, challenges Netherlands’ Shanice Van De Sanden during the Women’s World Cup Group E soccer match between New Zealand and the Netherlands in Le Havre, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) Francisco Seco AP

Courage captain and center back Abby Erceg joins Bowen on the New Zealand national team.

Erceg started and played a full 90 minutes in her team’s loss to the Netherlands on Tuesday. The 5-10 defender came into the World Cup with 26 caps.

Jill Ellis

United States coach Jill Ellis arrives for a training session at the Terrain d’Honneur Lucien Choine stadium a day before the Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at the Women’s World Cup in Paris, Saturday, June 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Alessandra Tarantino AP

The USWNT’s head coach, Jill Ellis, also has a Triangle connection: In 1988, as a 22-year-old fresh out of her college playing days at William and Mary, Ellis was a part-time graduate assistant at N.C. State.

Originally from England, Ellis was named the U.S.’s head coach in May 2014 and led her squad to its third World Cup title in 2015.

Rebecca Quinn

Canada defender Rebecca Quinn (5) and United States forward Megan Rapinoe (15) chase after the ball during the first half of an international friendly women’s soccer match, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) Eric Risberg AP

Former Blue Devil Rebecca Quinn is also competing in the 2019 World Cup on the Canadian national team.

Quinn wrapped up her time at Duke in 2017, where she earned All-ACC first-team honors and was the program’s first ACC Midfielder of the Year. Since graduating, Quinn has competed for her nation’s full team — including when she helped lead Canada to a bronze medal in the 2016 World Cup in Rio.

Kayla McCoy

Duke’s Kayla McCoy (12) has her attempt stopped by Penn State’s Frannie Crouse (9) and goaltender Britt Eckerstrom (28) during the first half of the NCAA Women’s College Cup Soccer Finals held at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary on Dec. 6, 2015. Chris Seward

Kayla McCoy, a forward whose final season at Duke was in 2018, is on the Jamaican national team in the 2019 World Cup. This year marks the first time a Caribbean nation qualified for the tournament.

The forward was an All-ACC first-team selection in her tenure at Duke.

A previous version of this story did not include Jill Ellis, Rebecca Quinn or Kayla McCoy.

Alex is an intern at The News and Observer, covering sports and however it intersects with life in the Triangle. Before that, Alex graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May and was a three-year staffer on UNC’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.