By Todd Kortemeier | Jan. 07, 2019, 10:33 a.m. (ET)

Monica Abbott pitches against Japan at the WBSC Women's Softball World Championship on Aug. 11, 2018 in Chiba, Japan.

 

Softball’s return to the Olympic Games is still more than 18 months away, but 18 U.S. women will be hard at work this year in preparation, hoping to keep up the momentum of two consecutive world championships with an Olympic gold medal.

USA Softball announced the 2019 national team roster Tuesday that returns 13 players from the squad that won the world championship and qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 last August in Chiba, Japan. All 18 players have played for Team USA before in some capacity, whether on the national or junior national team level. All are current or former Division I college athletes, with 11 schools represented.

The 2019 team will also feature two Olympians in Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman. The pitchers were teammates on the U.S. silver-medal-winning team at the last Olympic softball competition in 2008, and Osterman won gold with Team USA in 2004. Olympian Kelly Kretschman participated in the recent national team camp but did not make the final roster after playing for Team USA at the Japan Cup in November 2018.

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“This was without a question the most competitive trials that USA Softball has had in many years,” national team head coach Ken Eriksen said in a press release. “The level of talent was undeniable and without question some of the best in the world. After two successful world championships in 2016 and 2018, we knew this was going to be great to watch but hard to narrow down the field to 18 this summer.”

With preparation for Tokyo as the long-term goal, Team USA will compete in several smaller competitions in 2019 before narrowing down the roster to 15 players for the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. The U.S. has won eight softball gold medals at the Pan American Games but fell to Canada in 2015.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.