The USA celebrate their gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics. They could begin their bid to win a fourth straight women's basketball World Cup in Sydney with just seven players on court

Sydney (AFP) - The United States could begin their bid to win a fourth straight women’s basketball World Cup on Thursday with just seven players, but coach Cheryl Reeve is adamant they can cope.

Their 12-strong roster features five players who took part in the WNBA Finals and are currently making the long trek to Australia.

The coach said the quintet – Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson, Brioona Jones and Alyssa Thomas – would be allowed to recharge and acclimatise after the Las Vegas Aces sealed the WNBA Finals 3-1 against the Connecticut Sun on Monday.

“We’re giving them the time that they need because they are making huge sacrifices to jump on a plane right after a gruelling series and a gruelling WNBA season,” Reeve said.

The USA coach said they would be short-handed for their opener against Belgium on Thursday and possibly again on Friday against Puerto Rico.

“A full roster has been named but whether all the players will be present, that is not likely,” said Reeve.

“It’s a fluid process and for me as a coach when they show up for practice, then I know they’re there.

“For now, we’ll go with what we have and when some of those players start to come here, we’ll be able to get them up to speed very quickly.

“I mean it’ll be a factor, for sure, the short-term situation. You get through those games as best you can and then obviously they’ll be able to feature a little bit more as the competition goes on.”

The dominant Americans, gunning for an 11th title overall, are already without retired legends Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, while Brittney Griner continues to languish in a Russian jail.

But Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, Kahleah Copper and Ariel Atkins all played in their Tokyo Olympic gold medal-winning side last year.

Stewart, the MVP at the last World Cup, is at her third consecutive World Cup, while Loyd, Plum and Wilson are playing their second after beating Australia to win gold in 2018. The rest are making their World Cup debuts.

“Whatever numbers we have, we’ll go with it,” said Stewart.

“We’ll make sure our schemes are right, our scouting report is right, not look at the disadvantage,” she said.

“We know we have reinforcements coming and we just need to hold it down till then.”