Ohio Natives Rose LaVelle, Aubrey Kingsbury Could Lead USWNT To Third-Straight World Cup

Written By Mike Breen on July 19, 2023
Rose LaVelle Ohio UWSNT

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup begins July 20 in Australia and New Zealand, and the United States Women’s National Team is once again the favorite to win.

Kicking off play on July 21 against Vietnam, the U.S. squad — currently the top-ranked women’s team in the world — is looking to win the World Cup for the third-straight time, a feat that has never been accomplished by either a women’s or men’s team.

This time around, the USWNT’s World Cup roster features two Ohio natives. Not only do midfielder Rose Lavelle and goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury hail from the Buckeye State, both players are from the same city — Cincinnati.

Lavelle and Kingsbury were revealed to be members of the 23-woman World Cup roster on June 21 via a star-studded video announcement. In the video, Lavelle and Kingsbury are announced by actors Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order) and Lamorne Morris (New Girl), respectively.

With Ohio online sports betting up and running, this year’s Women’s World Cup will have a bit more interest for fans of Cincinnati’s hometown duo and for bettors alike.

Lavelle’s road to stardom began in Cincinnati

Lavelle has been one of the top performers on the USWNT over the past few years, making her debut on the national team in 2017 and playing a key role on the 2019 World Cup championship team.

Lavelle grew up in Cincinnati and was a standout varsity soccer player at Mount Notre Dame High School. In her senior year, The Cincinnati Enquirer named her the Cincinnati Player of the Year.

Earning a scholarship to play soccer at the University of Wisconsin, Lavelle was named Big Ten midfielder of the year in 2015 and 2016. She was the No. 1 pick in the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League, beginning her pro career with the Boston Breakers. After spending some time playing in England for Manchester United, Lavelle currently plays professionally for the NWSL’s OL Reign in Seattle alongside superstar (and USWNT teammate) Megan Rapinoe.

Lavelle has made 88 appearances with the USWNT, with 24 goals and 20 assists. At the 2019 FIFA World Cup in France, Lavelle scored three goals, including the final goal in the U.S. team’s 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the finals.

In the wake of her success, Lavelle has often professed her love for the city and returned to Cincinnati often. The city has likewise embraced the soccer star, unveiling a street mural of Lavelle ahead of her first World Cup appearance. After the 2019 World Cup victory, fans and city leaders honored Lavelle with a big outdoor ceremony in downtown Cincinnati, with the mayor declaring July 19 “Rose Lavelle Day.”

“I always say that Cincinnati is the city that built me into the player and the person that I am today,” Lavelle told public radio station WVXU in 2019. “I think the support that I get from Cincinnati means so much to me because this city means so much to me.”

Kingsbury to make her World Cup debut in Australia

Kingsbury is one of 14 U.S. players competing in the World Cup for the first time this year, but she’s an experienced and well-traveled goalkeeper who has played professionally all over the world since 2014.

Kingsbury (born Aubrey Bledsoe; she took her husband’s name after getting married in 2021) was raised in Cincinnati and played high school soccer at St. Ursula Academy, the same school where former USWNT player Heather Mitts played in the mid-’90s. Kingsbury and St. Ursula Academy won back-to-back state championships in 2007 and 2008.

After playing college soccer at Wake Forest (where she holds several records), Kingsbury went on to play professionally in the U.S. in New Jersey and Orlando, along with stints in Norway, Denmark and Australia.

Most recently, Kingsbury has been playing for the Washington Spirit, where she’s twice been named Goalkeeper of the Year. In 2021, she helped the Spirit win its first NWSL Championship.

Last year, the then 30-year-old Kingsbury became the oldest goalkeeper to earn her first cap for the USWNT, keeping a clean sheet in the U.S.’s 9-0 win against Uzbekistan. That’s been her only appearance with the USWNT so far.

According to Cincinnati’s Fox19, Kingsbury will be joined at the World Cup by her mother, husband and twin sister, Amber Bledsoe, who was also a goalkeeper and played soccer at Brown University.

“I can remember watching World Cups growing up and honestly never really thinking that I’d be there,” Kingsbury told Fox19. “It’s incredible. It still hasn’t completely sank in with me. It’s honestly a little surreal. I’m so proud of where my journey’s taken me. It’s been an incredible ride and I’m just grateful for all the people who’ve helped me get here.”

USWNT roster balanced mix of veteran and young stars

The USWNT’s 2023 World Cup roster features a balanced mix of veteran stars and promising young players.

Rapinoe is looking to make her 200th appearance with the U.S. team in what she has announced, to much fanfare, will be her final year before retiring. Rapinoe could break some records in her final World Cup appearance. At 38, she could become the oldest goalscorer in Women’s World Cup history. She could also become the first player to win a second Golden Ball, FIFA’s award for the top player in the tournament, which Rapinoe won at the 2019 World Cup.

Like Rapinoe, forward Alex Morgan is a USWNT legend making her fourth World Cup appearance this year.

Younger players making their World Cup debuts to keep an eye on include forward Trinity Rodman, who has become a National Women’s Soccer League superstar in just her first three years with the Washington Spirit.

Sophia Smith, a 22-year-old forward who has been tearing it up in the NWSL this year with the Portland Thorns, is also expected to shine in her first World Cup.

USWNT open group stage play against Vietnam

The Women’s World Cup teams are divided into eight groups of four teams, which play each other in a round-robin, with the top two teams in points moving on to the knockout stage.

The top-ranked U.S. team opens in Group E, which also includes the Netherlands (ranked No. 9 in the world), Portugal (No. 21) and Vietnam (No. 32).

The USWNT begins its 2023 World Cup campaign against Vietnam in Auckland, New Zealand on July 21 at 9 p.m. The U.S. plays the Netherlands on July 26 at 9 p.m. in Wellington, New Zealand. And on Aug. 1 at 3 a.m., the USWNT faces off against Portugal back in Auckland.

The USWNT’s group stage matches will be broadcast on Fox and Telemundo and can be streamed via Peacock.

The winner in Group E will play the runner-up from Group G on Aug. 6 in Sydney, Australia. The runner-up in Group E plays the winner of Group G on Aug 6 in Melbourne. Group G includes world No. 3 Sweden.

Most Ohio sportsbooks will offer women’s soccer betting odds, with several currently offering sign-up bonuses and promotions for new users.

U.S. women’s team to play in Ohio after World Cup

The USWNT’s first scheduled game after the World Cup will be a homecoming for Lavelle and Kingsbury.

On Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m., the U.S. women’s team will face off against South Africa for an international friendly at Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium, home to the MLS’s FC Cincinnati.

“We are looking forward to welcoming Rose Lavelle and Aubrey Kingsbury back home from the World Cup as the USWNT and South Africa come to the Queen City,” FC Cincinnati co-CEO Jeff Berding said in a press release.

The USWNT last played at TQL Stadium in 2021 when it blanked Paraguay 8-0. The U.S. women’s team played in Columbus, Ohio in 2022 at the Columbus Crew’s Lower.com Field, beating Uzbekistan 9-1.

Tickets for the USWNT’s Sept. 21 match in Cincinnati go on sale July 25. The game will be broadcast on TNT, Universo and Peacock.

Photo by AP / Alessandra Tarantino
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Mike Breen

Mike Breen covers Ohio’s budding sports betting industry for PlayOhio, focusing on online sportsbooks and the state’s responsible gambling initiatives. He has over two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture in Ohio.

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