When will USWNT star Tobin Heath return from injury and will she play at the 2023 Women's World Cup?

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Tobin Heath USWNT
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The two-time World Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medallist has been out injured for some time. When will she return?

U.S. women's national team star Tobin Heath is one of the most talented soccer players of her generation and a very well-decorated one, having won two World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals for her country.

She also has an impressive trophy haul at club level, being a part of two NWSL Championship winning teams with the Portland Thorns as well as lifting the NWSL Shield with the club. In 2022, she joined arch-rivals OL Reign and won the Shield there, too.

However, it's been a while since fans saw the skillful winger on the pitch, as she hasn't featured for club or country since last August.

What injury does Heath have and when will she return to action? Would it be possible to see her play for the USWNT at the 2023 Women's World Cup? GOAL has all the details you need to know.

  1. What is Tobin Heath's injury?

    What is Tobin Heath's injury?

    Heath was playing in England with Arsenal for the first half of 2022, joining the club she supported during her childhood ahead of the 2021-22 season.

    But her time with the Gunners came to a premature end due to a hamstring injury. Her contract was terminated by mutual consent so that Heath could return to the U.S. to receive treatment.

    After overcoming that problem, the forward joined OL Reign and made her first appearance in three months when she came on as a substitute in a defeat to the Kansas City Current last July.

    However, five appearances and one goal later, Heath was again on the sidelines. This time it was her knee causing the problem and she underwent season-ending surgery to treat the injury in September.

    “Although this wasn’t an easy decision, we know this was the right decision,” said Reign coach Laura Harvey.

    Heath herself posted to Instagram after the surgery, writing: “No one said it would be easy."

  2. What big games has Tobin Heath missed through injury?

    What big games has Tobin Heath missed through injury?

    October 2, 2022OL Reign 3-0 Orlando PrideReign wins 2022 NWSL Shield
    October 7, 2022England 1-0 USWNTUSWNT faces European champion
    October 23, 2022OL Reign 0-2 Kansas City CurrentNWSL play-off semi-final
    February 23, 2023USWNT 2-1 BrazilUSWNT wins 2023 SheBelieves Cup

    Heath's season ending early meant she was unable to contribute to the Reign's postseason. The club went into that as the 2022 NWSL Shield winner but was unable to claim an elusive NWSL Championship, despite it being the third time it has added the Shield to its trophy cabinet.

    The Kansas City Current progressed to the final instead, beating the Reign 2-0 in the semi-final but losing by the same scoreline to the Portland Thorns in the big game.

    Heath was then made a free agent ahead of the 2023 season so is currently not under contract with a club. She has not been involved for the USWNT since being on the roster in October 2021 for a pair of friendlies against South Korea, either.

  3. When will Tobin Heath return from injury?

    When will Tobin Heath return from injury?

    There is not currently any knowledge of when Heath could return to action after her surgery.

    Given she is without a club now, the only updates on her situation are coming from the player herself and there have been few soccer-related updates across her social media.

    The most positive sign to date came from a video posted to Instagram on January 1 which showed the forward kicking a ball around in a garden.

    In March, USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski was asked about Heath's situation and said she was in "return-to-play protocol", suggesting she is not far away from a return.

    Where will that take place? It is unclear at this moment.

  4. How is the USWNT performing without Tobin Heath?
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    How is the USWNT performing without Tobin Heath?

    While any team would no doubt benefit from the quality and experience that Heath can provide, the USWNT is blessed with a plethora of talented forwards right now and that depth is helping to make up for several high profile absentees.

    The latest USWNT roster included Alex Morgan, Lynn Williams, Sophia Smith, Ashley Hatch and Trinity Rodman as its forwards. That is with Megan Rapinoe out injured, and Midge Purce and Alyssa Thompson knocking on the door, too. The latter was called up later in the camp as a replacement for Mallory Swanson, who suffered an injury that will rule her out of the World Cup.

    With firepower like that, the USWNT was able to beat Canada, Japan and Brazil to win the 2023 SheBelieves Cup.

    However, there have been disappointing results and performances ahead of the 2023 Women's World Cup, too, such as the three successive defeats suffered to England, Spain and Germany in late 2022. The latter result saw the USWNT's 71-game unbeaten run at home come to an end.

  5. Will Tobin Heath play at the 2023 Women's World Cup?

    Will Tobin Heath play at the 2023 Women's World Cup?

    Despite Heath being without a club and having not played any minutes since last August, Andonovski still has not closed the door on her World Cup chances.

    In February, he said the forward was in "return-to-play protocol" and could be in his squad for the April games. When she missed out on that roster, he was again asked about Heath - as well as Press and Macario - and stated once more that they are in "return-to-play protocol".

    "In order to prepare to play in the World Cup, they have to be able to play significant minutes in a professional environment," the coach added.

    It's clear that to be able to make the roster Heath will need to be healthy again in good time before the tournament, in order to sign with a club and prove her fitness and form there. Given the European season will end soon, that club will likely be in the NWSL.

    Developments on which team she could join will likely become known soon because, as Andonovski has said twice, the forward is not far from a return.