Sophia Smith knew that soccer was what she was meant to do, even if it meant taking the long road to achieve her goal – literally.
In the latest episode of “The Journey” from the U.S. women’s national team, the 22-year-old NWSL MVP details her journey from Fort Collins, Colorado, to the USWNT.
That journey included a three- to four-hour daily trek from Fort Collins to Denver for soccer practice every day as a high schooler.
"𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨." How the long drive from Fort Collins to Denver propelled @sophsssmith from budding youth star to the #USWNT 🇺🇸🎥 The Journey: Sophia Smith pic.twitter.com/EL1tO3NaOr— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) October 26, 2022
"𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨." How the long drive from Fort Collins to Denver propelled @sophsssmith from budding youth star to the #USWNT 🇺🇸🎥 The Journey: Sophia Smith pic.twitter.com/EL1tO3NaOr
Smith’s dedication gave additional motivation to those around her.
“When you drive that far, it gives me extra motivation to say, ‘I have to make sure that when she shows up, I have to make sure she’s trying to get something out of the training session,’” said Lorne Donaldson, Smith’s youth coach.
The hard work paid off, as Smith received her first call-up to the USWNT at 16 years old. Heading into her first camp, she found herself admittedly a bit intimidated by the stars she would encounter.
“I knew that I was going to be in the same environment as everyone that I grew up watching,” Smith said. “I was gonna have to step on the field with them and try to prove why I was there at the age of 16.”
Her parents, though, weren’t worried, with mom Mollie Smith saying she knew her daughter “was gonna love every second” of it.
The forward earned her first cap with the national team against the Netherlands in 2020. In 2021, she made nine appearances, scoring her first international goal. This year, she’s gone on a tear for her country, making 15 appearances for the USWNT and scoring 10 goals.
“I think that [first camp] just opened doors and showed me what it took to be on that team and to play at that level every single day,” she said. “I can’t even put into words what I learned from being in that camp.”
Smith attended Stanford University for two years, winning a national title in 2019, before forgoing her remaining NCAA eligibility to enter the NWSL draft. She was drafted No. 1 overall by the Portland Thorns in 2020.
“I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” said Smith.
Since joining the Thorns, Smith has flourished. She became the youngest MVP in league history in the 2022 season, her second in the league. She also set a new single-season scoring record for Portland with 14 goals, one behind league leader Alex Morgan.
In total, she’s scored 21 goals through 21 games through two seasons with the Thorns.
Smith’s love affair with Portland began before the Thorns franchise even came into existence. Her parents took her to a college match between the University of Portland and University of Denver, and a Smith pointed out Christine Sinclair, who played for Portland, her parents said.
“And now, to see her playing with one of her idols is very special,” Kenny Smith said.
Now on the pitch rather than in the bleachers, Smith is becoming that role model for the next generation.
“To just see the kids that were Sophie at one point, now wanting to see Sophie become what they want to become and know that dream can come true for them I think is amazing,” Mollie Smith said.