Amid a pileup of injuries to major players heading into Concacaf’s women’s championship next month, U.S. national team manager Vlatko Andonovski had to look around.

So he reached out to the top scorer in the NWSL, with 13 goals in 15 games across the Challenge Cup and regular season. And he summoned a wily winger who’s part of arguably the league’s most loaded attack.

With that, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe returned to the stage that they have long commanded.

The two superstar veterans headline Andonovski’s 23-player squad for the upcoming Concacaf tournament, which will run from July 4-18 in Monterrey, Mexico. It will serve as qualifying for next year’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics, an unprecedented combination that raises the stakes even as the U.S. is the overwhelming favorite to win the title.

Morgan and Rapinoe haven’t played for the national team since last Oct. 26, the finale of the Americans’ post-Olympic tour that was Carli Lloyd’s last national team game. After that, Andonovski launched a long-awaited generational overhaul that brought in a slew of immensely talented youngsters.

Many of them made this squad, such as forward Trinity Rodman, midfielder Ashley Sanchez, defender Naomi Girma, and Rutgers-bred goalkeeper Casey Murphy. But Andonovski kept saying the door was open for the veteran quartet of Morgan, Rapinoe, Christen Press, and Tobin Heath. When he filed his 59-player preliminary list to Concacaf — from which he had to pick the final 23-player squad — all four players were on it.

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‘Her winning mentality’

Morgan’s scoring exploits speak for themselves. Press and Heath are injured. Rapinoe, though, is a big call. The 36-year-old has played just 152 minutes over five NWSL games this year, all as a substitute.

Andonovski indicated that Rapinoe isn’t in line for major minutes with the U.S., as he lavished praise on starting wingers Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith — “probably the two most exciting players to watch right now in the league,” he said.

“Megan and I had a great conversation after the season last year, and she understood the process that we were going to go through,” Andonovski said. “She understood that we are going to bring a lot of players, we are going to test a lot of players, we wanted to give the young players lots of minutes and opportunities to play, and give us a chance to evaluate them as much as possible. But after everything is said and done, that if she’s healthy and if she’s fit to get minutes, that she will be on the roster.”

Rapinoe will mainly be a veteran voice in the locker room, something Andonovski said the team’s young players will need.

“Her experience going through adversity, going through tough times and getting on top, her winning mentality, her knowledge and understanding, is very valuable for the group,” he said. “I think that she’s going to be instrumental to help them go through these games, go through these qualifiers. Because at some point, whether it’s within the game or in between the games, they’re going to need Megan’s voice, and her responsibility is to help them be the best version of themselves.”

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Heath hasn’t played in two months, though, as she left English club Arsenal at the end of its season. She also has been dealing with a hamstring injury. Press suffered a torn ACL playing with Angel City FC on Sunday, after an excellent start to the season that included four goals. That put Press on a sideline with seven other injured players who weren’t on the preliminary list in the first place: defenders Abby Dahlkemper and Tierna Davidson, midfielders Morgan Gautrat and Sam Mewis, and forwards Mia Fishel, Catarina Macario, and Lynn Williams.

Macario’s absence is an especially big deal: a torn ACL suffered earlier this month in the season finale for her club Lyon. She played a big role in helping Lyon win the French league and UEFA Champions League, including a goal in the Champions League final.

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But Press’ omission is the most controversial, partly because it was set in stone before the weekend.

“Christen Press was not on the roster even before the injury,” Andonovski said, blunt even by his standards.

A few minutes later, he added: “For Christen to be back on the field, it’s not just to do well or perform well in her club environment. It’s also [to] outperform the players that she’s competing against. And that would be players like Mallory Pugh and Soph Smith, and Alex Morgan, Ashley Hatch, Trinity Rodman.”

That is a long and foreboding list.

Notable newcomers

Within the players who made the preliminary list but not the roster, there weren’t any great surprises. But there was one big surprise newcomer on the roster: San Diego Wave midfielder Taylor Kornieck. Not only has the 23-year-old never played for the senior U.S. team, she has never been part of a senior U.S. camp.

Kornieck appears to have bumped Jaelin Howell, a 22-year-old who has five senior caps. She started playing on the big squad while in college at Florida State, and is now in her first pro season with Racing Louisville.

Howell is one of three players who will go to a June training camp in suburban Denver and two friendlies against Colombia before the Concacaf tournament, but not go to the tournament itself. The others are also newcomers: Portland Thorns midfielder Sam Coffey, a leading NWSL Rookie of the Year candidate, and North Carolina Courage defender Carson Pickett.

The U.S.-Colombia games will take place on June 25 in suburban Denver (7:30 p.m., FS1, ViX) and June 28 in suburban Salt Lake City (10 p.m., ESPN, ViX).

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The U.S. roster

Goalkeepers (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Carson Pickett (North Carolina Courage)*, Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

Midfielders (6): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns)*, Lindsey Horan (Lyon, France), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville)*, Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (7): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Midge Purce (Gotham FC), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns)

* — Will only take part in the June camp and friendlies, not the Concacaf tournament, because tournament rules mandate 23-player team rosters.