U.S. women's national soccer team coach Jill Ellis didn't pull any surprises in unveiling the 18-player roster that will compete at next month's Olympics.

There was no reason for her to.

With the depth chart at nearly every position long since established, Ellis had a fairly easy task in picking the best players for her squad.

The headliners are familiar, starting with Delran-born team captain Carli Lloyd in midfield.

"Even though this is my third Olympics, each and every time it's very special and humbling to be part of an Olympic team," Lloyd said in remarks distributed by the U.S. Soccer Federation. "We know what to expect and what is needed to win the gold medal."

Lloyd has been a superhero for the U.S. in recent Olympic tournaments, scoring the gold medal-winning goals in 2008 and 2012. And of course, she rose to global star status last summer after scoring a hat trick in the World Cup final.

But the last few weeks have been rough due to a sprained MCL in her right knee she suffered in late April. Lloyd didn't play at all for her club team, the National Women's Soccer League's Houston Dash, after the injury. She also missed two national team games in June.

Lloyd reported to U.S. camp in early July to begin preparing for the Olympics, and officially returned to the field in Saturday's 1-0 win over South Africa.

Ellis has tried to not throw Lloyd back into the proverbial deep end too fast.

"I don't really want to put a high expectation on Carli because one, she puts that on herself; and two, I want her to do her role," Ellis said on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. "When she focuses on her role, she's magnificent at it and she helps us be successful. So I'm not going to say go down there and score five goals in the first two games. It's more about, hey, just continue to play how we want to play and her opportunities will come."

Other big names on the roster include Alex Morgan and stalwart goalkeeper Hope Solo, who recently became the first goalkeeper - male or female - to record 100 national-team shutouts.

There's also wing midfield wizard Megan Rapinoe, who tore the ACL in her right knee last December. She put in a huge rehab effort to be fit in time for the Olympics, and it seems to have succeeded.

"There was a big part of me that didn't know if this was possible," Rapinoe said in U.S. Soccer's distributed remarks. "It's very surreal, mostly because I have a lot of work to do now, and where I am at now is not where I am going to be in a few weeks. Going to the Olympics and representing your country is incredible, but this one is that much better."

Rapinoe hasn't played all year for her club team, the NWSL's Seattle Reign. But she has trained away from the field with the national-team program a few times this year, and was named to the roster for two pre-Olympic tuneup games this month.

The 31-year-old might get some time on the field in a quick trip back to Seattle this weekend for Saturday's Reign game against the Western New York Flash. She'll almost certainly play in the sendoff game against Costa Rica on July 22 in Kansas City (9 p.m., ESPN).

At the Olympics, Rapinoe likely won't be a starter - not only because of her recovery, but because the U.S. team has plenty of other firepower. But she should be able to provide an important spark off the bench.

"The plan for Megan is we've got to build her in this tournament," Ellis said, equating the situation to that of Alex Morgan's recovery from injury going into last summer's World Cup. "Is [Rapinoe] going to be able to play 90 minutes in six games? Of course not. But I think her special qualities, also what she brings in terms of her personality and leadership off the field... once I saw her in contact [practices] it wasn't a tough decision."

For as many veterans as there are on the squad - 14 of the 18 players played in last year's World Cup - there's also a fair amount of new blood. The retirements of striker Abby Wambach, midfielder Lauren Holiday and defender Christie Rampone, who grew up in Point Pleasant, N.J., opened the door for a crop of sensational young talents.

Three players in particular have seized the spotlight.

Start with Lindsey Horan, a 22-year-old who turned down a college scholarship at powerhouse North Carolina to turn pro in France at age 18. Now back in the U.S. playing for the NWSL's Portland Thorns, she will likely team up with Lloyd and either Morgan Brian or Allie Long in the center of midfield.

Crystal Dunn is a 24-year-old dynamo who can play in almost any attacking position. The Long Island native was the last cut from the 2015 World Cup squad, and took it out on the NWSL by scoring 15 goals for the Washington Spirit. That earned her league MVP honors. Dunn has carried that form to the national team, scoring all 13 of her international goals since last September.

Finally, there's the most promising prospect of all: 18-year-old midfielder Mallory Pugh. The Denver-area native hasn't even turned pro yet - she'll head to UCLA after coming home from the Olympics - but she has fit in seamlessly in central and wide roles. Pugh's national-team debut came as a 17-year-old this past January, and she scored the first of her two goals so far in 12 appearances.

Across the rest of the squad, Ellis made two predictable but important choices to fill in key depth roles.

One was at backup goalkeeper, where Alyssa Naeher narrowly edged Ashlyn Harris.

"It was sort of splitting hairs," Ellis said. "In the Christmas break, Ash had some work on her knee done, and I think she was behind, but she certainly gained ground. In that period, Alyssa did well, played in some games, and it was more about she hadn't really done anything to lose it."

The other was in midfield, where Long was chosen over Samantha Mewis to be a defensive reinforcement. Long was another player who narrowly missed out on last year's World Cup, and as with Dunn, she used that as motivation to step up her game.

"Needing depth and needing some experience in there, I think Allie fills those roles," Ellis said. "She doesn't get rattled at all and she's been productive for us... Not making it [in 2015] was potentially the bump she needed, and now she's very versatile [with] her ball-winning and her distribution."
Ellis signaled a preference for experience over youth on her bench by taking the 28-year-old Long over the 23-year-old Mewis, as well as choosing 28-year-old Whitney Engen over 22-year-old Emily Sonnett at centerback.

Harris, Mewis and Sonnett are three of the four alternates who will travel to Brazil to serve as reserves in case of injury. The other is veteran winger Heather O'Reilly, who came up short of a major-tournament squad for the first time since 2003.

"With Heather, I said, 'Are you prepared for this role?' and she goes, 'For sure, of course'" Ellis said. "We've just added more depth to that [outside midfield] position... It's the hardest position to make on our team."

O'Reilly reacted with her typical class and grace in an Instagram post Tuesday afternoon.

"In the 230 games that I have played for the USWNT so far, I have done it with my whole heart, with every ounce of me, regardless of the role, to help us win," she wrote. "Of course, I will be ready to go if called on. Now, let's go win gold!"

The U.S. will begin its quest to win that gold on Aug. 3 against New Zealand in Belo Horizonte. It would be the team's fourth straight Olympic title, and the first ever won by a reigning World Cup champion.

U.S. women's national team Olympic roster

Goalkeepers (2): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign)

Defenders (6): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)

Midfielders (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC).

Forwards (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado).

Alternates (4): GK Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), D Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC), M Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), M Heather O'Reilly (FC Kansas City)

U.S. game schedule
All times are Eastern. TV coverage has not yet been announced, but most games are expected to be on NBCSN.

Wednesday, Aug. 3: vs. New Zealand at Estádio Minerão, Belo Horizonte, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 6: vs. France at Estádio Minerão, Belo Horizonte, 4 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 9: vs. Colombia at Arena Amazônia, Manaus, 6 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 12: Quarterfinal

Tuesday, Aug. 16: Semifinal

Friday, Aug. 19: Medal round