A United States women’s national team that arrived in Mexico this week with two objectives has already achieved the first: After a lopsided victory over Jamaica on Thursday night, the United States clinched a place in the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
The 5-0 victory came in the Americans’ second game at the Concacaf women’s championship, which is serving as both a regional championship and also as the qualifying tournament for the Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics. The United States beat Haiti, 3-0, in its opening game on Monday.
Under the format of the revamped eight-team regional tournament, officially branded the Concacaf W Championship, the top two finishers in each four-team group qualify automatically for the Women’s World Cup, where the United States is the two-time defending champion.
The United States ensured it would be one of the top finishers with a dominant performance against Jamaica: Sophia Smith scored twice in the first eight minutes, and Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis and Trinity Rodman added goals in the second half as the outclassed Jamaicans faded under an onslaught of U.S. depth and scoring chances.
The Americans’ place in the World Cup was only ensured a few hours later, though, when Haiti beat host Mexico in the night’s second game. That result guaranteed the United States a top-two finish in its first-round group, and a place in the expanded 32-team World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next summer.
The United States is the 12th nation to qualify, joining the co-hosts, along with South Korea, Japan, China, the Philippines and Vietnam from Asia; and Sweden, France, Denmark and Spain from Europe.
Canada, the defending Olympic women’s champion and the Americans’ biggest regional rival, is expected to join that group on Friday, when it plays Panama in its second match in the tournament. But the biggest story of the tournament could be Haiti: Its 3-0 victory over Mexico means it needs only a draw against Jamaica in its final group game to earn its first trip to the World Cup.
The next goal for the United States, meanwhile, will be securing a place in the Paris Olympics. Only the winner of the Concacaf tournament will earn a direct place in that tournament, though there will be a lifeline for the runner-up and third-place nations through a Concacaf Olympic playoff in September 2023.
U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski is managing a team in transition as he navigates the path to both tournaments. The squad he brought to Mexico is a blend of World Cup veterans like Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Becky Sauerbrunn and new faces like Smith, whose two goals gave her seven this year, the most for a U.S. player; defender Naomi Girma, who assisted on Smith’s first goal in only her third game for the U.S.; and Rodman, the daughter of the former N.B.A. star Dennis Rodman.
That diversity of options has made the team a glimpse of the future of a championship squad that, for the moment, still includes veterans like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan. Thirteen members of Andonovski’s squad are competing in their first World Cup or Olympic qualifying tournament for the team, and eight entered the tournament with fewer than 10 international appearances.
Smith showed a hint of the promise at his disposal in the opening minutes. On her first goal, she took a long pass on the right, lifted the ball over a defender’s head on the run to cut back and then flicked it with her right foot past the Jamaican goalkeeper.
Her second came a few minutes later, and after a similar leading ball down the right, and was finished just as deftly: with a first-touch flip over the goalkeeper that was confirmed after a brief video review.
Two more goals in the first half — by Ashley Hatch in the 11th minute and Mallory Pugh in the 27th — were erased by video review, which is being used in the women’s championship for the first time this year.
The result, though, was never in doubt. An unmarked Lavelle scored at the back post in the 59th minute to make it 3-0; Kristie Mewis converted a penalty after Midge Purce was bowled over in the area in the 82nd minute; and Rodman turned in a cross from Pugh four minutes later for her second international goal.