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USWNT roster notes: Sophia Smith ‘wasn’t quite alive’ for 1999 World Cup

USWNT forward Sophia Smith poses for a selfie after a September friendly against Nigeria. (Erin Chang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

A youth movement is taking over the U.S. women’s national team, as highlighted on the roster revealed Wednesday, which includes 14 players new to the World Cup stage.

Rising star Sophia Smith admitted she “wasn’t quite alive” for the iconic 1999 World Cup win — she was born in 2000 — but that doesn’t mean she and her teammates aren’t ready to take the tournament by storm.

Sophia Smith

Sophia Smith has been dreaming of the World Cup since childhood, she said after the roster announcement. And while she “wasn’t quite alive” for the 1999 World Cup, the 22-year-old knows what it means to the USWNT. It also helped inspire her to get to this point.

“This is something I’ve dreamed of for, I don’t even know how long, so to get that call was just kind of like a big relief, and just I just felt pure joy because you know, the past few months have been a little bit stressful,” she said. “I’ve been feeling a little anxious just because the clock has been ticking and I knew this time was coming. So to get that call was I mean it was pretty surreal and I still feel all those emotions right now.”

As for her role on the team, Smith will have a lot of expectations placed on her shoulders as one of the team’s most explosive scorers. Still, she hopes just to be herself amid the bright lights of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“I think every time that I go into a national team camp and just completely be myself, that’s when I have success and that’s when I can kind of bring others into the game,” she said. “I take a lot of pride in doing my role to the best of my ability, whether that’s scoring goals, whether that’s getting assists, or whether that’s being you know, the best teammate that I can be. I take a lot of pride and all of that.”

Alyssa Thompson

At 18 years old, Alyssa Thompson is the youngest player on the World Cup roster. And she’s the second-youngest player to ever make a USWNT roster for the World Cup behind Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak, who was 17 at the 1995 World Cup. It’s been a big year for Thompson, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the NWSL Draft in January and graduated from high school earlier this month.

Now she’ll take the biggest step of her career, despite having played in youth soccer just months ago.

“In October, she was playing youth soccer,” Andonovski said. “And now, in July, she will be at the biggest stage in women’s soccer.”

Savannah DeMelo

Racing Louisville midfielder Savannah DeMelo has been one of the best players in the NWSL in 2023. But she faces a big question mark ahead of the World Cup: Her inexperience on the international scene.

The 25-year-old has never played in a match for the USWNT, despite having been brought into camp multiple times, starting with the team’s Nigeria friendlies last September.

“One thing that we wanted to see from her is consistency in the upcoming season,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Sav did very well and was very consistent. Her performance in the league was one of the biggest reasons why she’s on the team.

“And based on the needs that we have in terms of opponents and different situations that we may face, we see Sav being very important for us going forward.”

Kristie Mewis

At 32 years old, Kristie Mewis is the oldest player making her World Cup debut for the USWNT. While she has been in the USWNT system for almost a decade, she missed out on the 2015 and 2019 tournaments. But, according to Andonovski, she is one of the most mature players on the 2023 team.

“She is a mature player that knows what it takes to be a successful player, that knows what it takes to bring the best out of her teammates,” he said. “She has been so selfless when she’s in camp and understands her role to a T. One thing we love about Kristie is that when she is on the field, (even) if it’s 15 minutes, then we know that we’re gonna get the best 15-minute player in the world.

“She knows that, she understands that, and she executes it very well.”