Gearing Up For Team USA? Here Are 3 NC Women’s Soccer Stars to Watch This World Cup.

The U.S. Women's National Team, which begins play tonight in the FIFA Women's World Cup, will include North Carolina soccer star Crystal Dunn again. (Shutterstock)

By Toni Ocloo

July 21, 2023

The prestige in NC women’s soccer continues to shine as three NC college graduates, Emily Fox, Aubrey Kingsbury, and Crystal Dunn, suit up for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The biggest women’s soccer tournament in the world is underway, and it’s no surprise that NC women’s soccer stars will be well represented.

The state has sent at least two former collegiate soccer players since 1991 to the FIFA Women’s World Cup. They’ve sent three more this summer.

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North Carolina’s pedigree in the realm of women’s soccer is arguably unmatched, producing talent year over year at the youth, collegiate, and professional levels.

National team legends like Mia Hamm and stars like Tobin Heath develop in this state, taking their talents to North Carolina collegiate programs such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – one of the most prestigious female sports programs in all of NCAA history.

As Team USA gears up to play this evening against Vietnam (9 p.m. EST on Fox), there are three North Carolina college alums we will be rooting for in this tournament.

NC Women’s Soccer Stars in the World Cup

Emily Fox, Defender, UNC-Alum, North Carolina Courage

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Emily Fox suffered an ACL tear 13 games into her freshman season with the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2017. But the talented defender returned to action the following season and has impressed enough to be making her World Cup debut in New Zealand with the U.S. Women’s National Team tonight.

Injury presents major drawbacks for even the most elite and seasoned athletes, but experiencing injury, let alone one as devastating as an ACL injury, early into one’s career is enough for most people to reconsider their place on the field.

However, it didn’t stop Fox.

During her time as a Tar Heel, she managed to establish herself as an extremely versatile defensive talent, earning First-Team All-ACC Honors three times and helping UNC to two national championship appearances over the course of her four-year career. She managed these accomplishments while making international appearances with the National Team as early as her sophomore season in 2018.

Fox was selected No.1 overall in the NWSL draft to Racing Louisville FC, where she played her first two professional seasons. A recent trade to the NC Courage has brought Fox back to North Carolina for her 2023 campaign.

Fox will likely play a key role in the American defense this World Cup, with her versatility at outside back providing much needed depth and utility for the 23-woman squad.

Aubrey Kingsbury, Goalkeeper, Wake Forest-Alum, Washington Spirit

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Get excited Deacs fans! Aubrey Kingsbury will be the first Wake Forest alumnae ever to appear in the Women’s World Cup. Kingsbury made her National Team debut in 2022, but will be making her first World Cup appearance starting this evening.

Not many athletes have as illustrious a collegiate career as Kingsbury. As a Demon Deacon, Kingsbury was a three-time All-American, leading Wake Forest to its first ACC Title in 2010.

Professionally, Kingsbury began her career overseas but returned to the U.S. in 2015 to play for the NWSL’s Orlando Pride. Since 2018, she has been the star goalkeeper for the Washington Spirit, where she has earned NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year honors in 2019 and 2021.

There is lots of talent and experience at goalkeeper for the U.S. this tournament. Fans can expect Aubrey to play a huge part in game preparation and training, providing a much needed option off the bench in games when necessary.

Crystal Dunn, Defender/Midfielder, UNC-Alum, Portland Thorns FC

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Position changes are never easy, but it seems to be routine for 2019 World Cup Champion Crystal Dunn. Dunn, a former UNC star that has blossomed into a national team veteran and fan-favorite, will be competing in her second consecutive World Cup this evening. Though Dunn plays much of her club seasons as a midfielder, she switches to left-back defense for the national team. If anyone would be up for the challenge, it is Dunn.

She was dynamite as a Tar Heel, earning enough accolades to warrant a separate article. Notably, she was a multi-year All-American and All-ACC selection, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Hermann Trophy Recipient (Best Female Player in NCAA Division I Soccer), and even led UNC to its 22nd National Championship in 2012.

Phew! Definitely will be needing a breath after that mouthful. But, it just goes to show how great of a collegiate career Dunn had.

As a professional, Dunn has done it all. In 2014, she was selected no.1 overall (to no one’s surprise) by the Washington Spirit in the NWSL Draft. She has also played for Chelsea and the North Carolina Courage, and currently plays for Portland Thorns FC.

Dunn has made 132 appearances with the National Team. Her veteran experience, as well as versatility on the pitch, will make her a valuable asset for a U.S. team seeking its third consecutive World Cup Title. Fans can expect Dunn to get the start at left-back, but can also be prepared to see her wherever the team might need her on the field.

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