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USWNT World Cup player preview: Get to know Sophia Smith

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Sophia Smith enters her first World Cup as the USWNT's leading goal scorer in the last calendar year. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images).

Plenty of new faces are heading Down Under with the U.S. women’s national team for the World Cup. Just Women’s Sports is taking a look at a few of the newcomers and introducing them to fans new and old.

Sophia Smith

Age: 22
Position: Forward
USWNT debut: Nov. 27, 2020 vs. the Netherlands
Total caps: 30

How has she looked in her NWSL season?

The reigning NWSL MVP, Smith started off the 2023 season on fire. After scoring 15 goals through 18 games last season, so far this year Smith has 10 goals through 13 games, including a hat trick in her final game with the Portland Thorns before she left for USWNT camp. Those 10 goals lead the league, and her five assists rank second behind teammate Sam Coffey.

On June 24, Smith reached 30 goals for her NWSL career, making her the youngest to achieve such a feat.

What does she bring to the USWNT?

What doesn’t Smith bring to the USWNT? The 22-year-old led the U.S. in scoring in 2022, becoming the youngest player to do so since Mia Hamm in 1993. Entering the World Cup, her role in the attack has only grown with injuries to players like Mallory Swanson and Christen Press.

“I think my role going into this tournament, it’s going to be big, and I love that,” Smith said after being named to the U.S. roster in June. “I love the spotlight, I love pressure, I love it all.”

USWNT teammates have described the forward as “unstoppable,” “unpredictable” and “deadly.”

At USWNT media day last month, Smith said she’s always thinking about scoring, even when going up against the best defenders in the world. That mentality will be key as the U.S. likely faces their toughest opponents yet in their pursuit of a third straight World Cup title.

The future and present of the USWNT, Smith embraces the pressures that come with her success and expectations.

“Just from day one, I’m a winner,” Smith said. “I have to win. Like, it makes me sick to lose anything — card game, anything. So, when it comes to soccer, I just find a way.”

What have USWNT coaches and teammates said about Smith?

Vlatko Andonovski, USWNT head coach: “First and foremost, this is the best team in the world. And in order to play on this team, you have to be one of the best in the world. She is a special player and she’s certainly developing aspects of her game that she maybe wasn’t special in: ability to pop in pockets or to recognize those pockets, and then expose the defense. For us as coaches, we’re happy to see that because it gives us another layer or an opportunity to create strategy in a way that we believe we can expose teams.”

Naomi Girma, defender: “Her ability to turn and go 1-on-1 is next level. To a defender, she’s annoying.”