(Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos)
- USA forward Sophia Smith is seen as an emerging talent
- The travel enthusiast lists France as her favourite destination
- Striker earned call-up to the senior USA squad in 2017
Playing international football has its advantages. One of the perks is the opportunity to travel around the world and play in interesting locations. It is a privilege that USA U-20 forward Sophia Smith has made the most of.
Whether it has been the Caribbean, Europe, or the Middle East, Smith enjoys fulfilling her pursuits of travelling and playing the beautiful game. When asked to choose a favourite destination, one place stood out for the youngster. “Just in terms of the environment and the people, I would say honestly that it’s France,” Smith said in an interview with FIFA.com.
“I think it’s different than all the places we’ve been [as a team], and that includes the soccer environment that saw tons of people coming to watch the small friendlies we played there. Also, getting to see Paris was something that doesn’t come around often.”
The striker’s destination of choice is in line with where she is hoping to appear this August after helping the Stars and Stripes qualify for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018. This year’s tournament will be hosted in the French region of Brittany - a part of the world that Smith is keen to visit again. “I think the people in that area are a very educated soccer crowd, so I think it will be awesome for the soccer environment, and just the area itself is a super nice place, with lots to do,” she said.
- Born 10 August 2000 in Windsor, Colorado, USA
- Plays her club football for local side Real Colorado
- Is set to join the women’s football programme at Stanford University
- Tobin Heath (USA) and Marta (Brazil) are her favourite women’s players
On the rise
Smith’s recent globetrotting has been a result of the forward’s rising stock within the USA women’s national team programme. The 17-year-old has made big strides since appearing at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016. “Playing in the U-17 Women’s World Cup gave me a better glimpse of what that environment [of the top level] is like and what it takes to compete at that level,” she said. “That has contributed to my game more than anything in my whole soccer career to date.”
Named US Soccer’s Young Female Player of the Year for 2017, Smith’s efforts were rewarded with a call-up to the senior USA squad last year. “It’s hard to put in words because it is a whole different world,” she said of training with Jill Ellis’s team.
“That opened my eyes to a whole other level of soccer and what it really takes to get to that level. Just meeting the players that have made it there and have been with that team consistently was awesome. Just learning about their lifestyle and their habits that helped to get them to where they are was a life-changing experience. It just made me want it even more to make it to that level.”
France 2018 in sight
The USA’s desire to succeed in the women’s game remains constant. For Smith and her team-mates, the goal is to lead the North American nation to a fourth U-20 Women’s World Cup title. Led by experienced coach Jitka Klimkova, the Stars and Stripes are a side that is well rehearsed in its own abilities. “What I love about this team is the chemistry. Even though there are roster changes here and there, there’s always been a core group with chemistry,” Smith said. “I think that’s what translates on to the field. It helps us play better together. Everyone has a fun and unique personality, on and off the field. I think it’s something that will ultimately take us further than all of the opponents that we play.”
Drawn in a competitive-looking Group C with Japan, Paraguay, and Spain, USA will need to be on their best form when their France 2018 campaign begins on 6 August. “I think we’re pretty familiar with those three teams, though Spain is probably the least familiar to us, just because we haven’t had a chance to play them,” Smith revealed. “We have a lot of respect for every team at the World Cup, and I think if we just come out playing like we know how to play, I think we should be good.”