There are plenty of big headlines surrounding the U.S. women's soccer team ahead of the Tournament of Nations, but the biggest one goes beyond the field.
On Wednesday, North Carolina Courage outside back Jaelene Hinkle was recalled to the team for the first time since June 2017, when she declined a call-up because the team was to wear rainbow-colored jersey numbers in honor of Pride Month.
Hinkle didn't speak about the decision for a long time. She finally admitted the truth in an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network that was published in late May.
"I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn't my job to wear this jersey," she said. "I knew in my spirit I was doing the right thing. I knew that I was being obedient. … If I never get a national team call-up again, that just is part of his [referring to her faith] plan."
The U.S. women's soccer team has had many publicly out players over the years, including current star Megan Rapinoe. Manager Jill Ellis is also publicly out.
Thanks partly to that environment, soccer games and stadiums across America have earned reputations as safe spaces for LGBTQ fans to express themselves. Among the many times Ellis has acknowledged that was the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015. Coincidentally, the U.S. played a game at the Women's World Cup a few hours later.
"Our players, they're great role models, and to have that now be something that all of us can embrace, no matter where we live in the country, I think it's a tremendous step for our country," Ellis said at the time. "And certainly, as someone who benefits from that, I'm extremely pleased for everybody in our nation's LGBT community."
Hinkle's talents on the field are beyond question. She has been arguably the best left back in the NWSL this year and plays for the league's best team. But there will be major questions about how her return to the national team will affect the locker room. The fan base's view is easy to gauge: social media lit up with criticism of the decision. If the players are on board and say so publicly, that will matter.
As for the rest of the roster, almost all of the big stars are on the team, led by Alex Morgan, Lindsey Horan, Rapinoe and Tobin Heath. They've combined for 34 goals and 21 assists this year for their NWSL clubs and the national team. Delran's Carli Lloyd will aim for her 101st national team goal, and central midfield stalwarts Julie Ertz and Samantha Mewis will be reunited. Becky Sauerbrunn will marshal the back line.
Keep an eye on goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, seen by many as the NWSL's best at the position. Forward Kealia Ohai, who hasn't been with the national team since November of 2016, is back after a long time out injured. Left back Casey Short and midfielder Rose Lavelle are also back after major injuries.
Three big names are out because of injuries: winger Mallory Pugh, defender Kelley O'Hara and goalkeeper Abby Smith.
The omissions start with utility player Sofia Huerta. While most of Huerta's experience has been in midfield, Ellis projects her as a right back. Huerta engineered a trade from the Chicago Red Stars to the Houston Dash last month in part to get more reps at the position, but it hasn't happened yet.
Midfield prospects Savannah McCaskill and Andi Sullivan also didn't make the cut, even though they've played for the national team a few times this year.
Ellis called up 25 players in total. Two cuts will be made for the tournament to a final roster of 23.
Goalkeepers (3): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)
Defenders (7): Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Stanford University), Jaelene Hinkle (North Carolina Courage), Merritt Mathias (North Carolina Courage), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns)
Midfielders (8): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Allie Long (Seattle Reign), McCall Zerboni (North Carolina Courage)
Forwards (7): Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign), Amy Rodriguez (Utah Royals)
Tournament of Nations schedule
July 26: Brazil vs. Australia (4:15 p.m. ET) and United States vs. Japan (7 p.m., Fox Sports 1) at Children's Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kan.
July 29: Japan vs. Brazil (4:15 p.m.) and United States vs. Australia (7 p.m., Fox Sports 1) at Pratt & Whitney Stadium, East Hartford, Conn.
Aug. 2: Australia vs. Japan (5:45 p.m.) and United States vs. Brazil (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1) at Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.
Broadcast arrangements for the non-U.S. games are still to be determined.