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Former UCLA soccer player Ashley Sanchez selected to World Cup team

Former UCLA women’s soccer forward Ashley Sanchez responds to a question from media at the U.S. Women’s National Team press conference. Sanchez is one of 14 players to make the World Cup squad for the first time. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Grace Whitaker

June 30, 2023 6:49 p.m.

This post was updated July 2 at 7:09 p.m.

The World Cup, which only occurs every four years, is arguably the largest stage in women’s soccer.

And while making the competitive roster is seemingly impossible, one Bruin alumnus’ dreams of competing on this stage have come true.

Former UCLA women’s soccer forward Ashley Sanchez is one of 23 players headed to play for the United States Women’s National team at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. As the top-ranked defending champions, the Americans will attempt to repeat their success from the 2019 World Cup with a roster that is headlined by forwards Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.

Sanchez – who is one of 14 newcomers to the tournament squad – noted that landing the spot on the roster was an honor.

“I’m just excited, and you don’t really know how to prepare for something like this,” Sanchez said. “(It’s) something you always dream of, but once you’re here, it’s kind of just a surreal feeling.”

Sanchez competed for the Bruins from 2017-2019 before forgoing her senior year when she was selected fourth overall in the 2020 National Women’s Soccer League Draft by the Washington Spirit. During her time with UCLA, Sanchez scored 23 goals and produced 42 assists, tying her own record for most assists per season in her final college soccer campaign as she collected 15 across the 2019 season.

In addition to producing success on the field, she was recognized as a First-Team United Soccer Coaches All-American in 2018, while procuring All-Pac-12 honors all three years. Since joining the Washington Spirit, she has scored three goals and assisted five, including a game-winning goal in the 2021 NWSL semifinal.

Her squad then defeated the Chicago Red Stars to clinch the national NWSL title.

(Daily Bruin file photo)
Sanchez drives the ball forward in a match against Oregon during her time at UCLA. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Despite the upcoming tournament being Sanchez’s first World Cup, she has competed with the Senior National Team since 2021 and even participated in various youth national World Cups throughout her career.

Sanchez previously made history by becoming the first athlete to simultaneously compete for the U-17 and U-20 squads in the 2016 World Cups. The midfielder contributed heavily to the former team, netting three goals across the tournament.

Off the heels of finding success at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the USWNT will enter the tournament as the No. 1-ranked squad, according to FIFA. Coach Vlatko Andonovski noted that the addition of 14 new players to their roster is not a detriment to the team and will instead play a key role in the group’s success.

“I’m not worried about the inexperience, but in fact, I’m excited about the energy and the enthusiasm that the young players bring, the intensity and the drive as well,” Andonovski said. “Very excited about the group, and I actually think that will be one of our advantages.”

Finding a spot on the competitive 23-person roster is a notably intense race, with a slew of athletes vying for a slot.

While Sanchez noted that she is unaware of the role she will play for the squad in the coming weeks, the midfielder has appreciated every part of her player development that has gotten her to this moment.

“It’s really a big moment for me, but also my city, my extended family, my friends, and honestly, people I played with when I was younger that I haven’t talked to in years,” Sanchez said. “Everyone is a part of the journey.”

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Grace Whitaker | Assistant Sports editor
Whitaker is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
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