- Kristie and Sam Mewis starred together for USA at youth level
- While Sam became a world champion, Kristie has struggled to realise her potential
- First senior call-up in five years has raised hopes of sisters reuniting for USWNT
In 2008, Kristie and Sam Mewis reached a World Cup final together. Had it been said at that FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup that just one of these sisters would go on to grace a global final at senior level, predicting which would have seemed easy.
Kristie, after all, was the jewel in the crown of that young USA side. The midfielder left New Zealand with a Bronze Ball award - the only American to feature on the player of the tournament podium - and ended the year as US Soccer’s Young Athlete of the Year. Stardom seemed all but certain.
But when the USWNT became world champions in France last July, Sam was the star and Kristie the spectator. The explanation for the switching of the siblings’ statuses is a story that unfolded across the 11 years that separated those World Cup finals of 2008 and 2019.
For Kristie, the elder of the two sisters, those years contained frustration, stagnation, a succession of transfer moves and, in 2018, an ACL injury. Fortunately, Mewis Snr prefers self-analysis to self-pity, and has used that setback to reset her career on an upwards trajectory.
“I think when something like that happens, it can allow you to see where your weaknesses were and maybe even why the injury happened,” she told FIFA.com. “In my case, it definitely showed me where I was going wrong and where I was weak.
“That injury, and the time out, was one of the worst periods I’ve ever experienced. But despite how miserable it was, it was rewarding too because it taught me so much – about my body and about appreciating every moment on the field - that is now making me stronger.”
The evidence of that came in Mewis’s performances for Houston Dash last season, and the reward for those arrived in December with a long-awaited recall to the USWNT set-up. For a player who won the last of her 15 caps in 2014, it was a moment to savour.
“That camp was awesome,” said Kristie, 29. “It was just great to be out there, wearing the US crest again. I also got some really good feedback from Vlatko [Andonovski, USWNT head coach] on what he needs to see from me in the NWSL. I played under him [for FC Kansas City] a few years ago and I know he’s not afraid to give you that feedback – good or bad. So it was good to come away with a couple of things to work on.
“I’m well aware of how difficult it will be because it’s the toughest squad in the world to break into right now. The girls who’re there are all incredible – every single player is world-class.”
Mewis certainly has no hesitation in proudly applying that label to her younger sister. And when it was suggested that the experience of watching Sam conquer the world – realising their shared dream alone – must have had a bittersweet tinge, she was quick to object.
“Honestly, there wasn’t anything bitter about it,” she insisted. “To watch Sam playing at the World Cup, and not just playing but winning the trophy and having the most incredible tournament, was amazing. She showed everyone just what a fantastic, world-class player she is, and I look up to her so much.
“Sam hasn’t had the easiest ride with the national team herself – there have definitely been some downs. But she is just incredible, and the way she performs under pressure just blows me away. Words can’t express how proud I was. No-one in the world deserves it more than her.
“I would have loved to have playing beside her, of course. But it really wasn’t bittersweet because I knew I didn’t deserve to be there. It might have been different if I felt that I should have been part of the squad. But I had been coming back from my injury and just wasn’t at the level of the girls in that team.”
Kristie’s candidness comes from knowing what it takes to be among the world’s elite. Having been one of the best players in her age bracket a decade ago, she feels inspired to prove she can return to such heights.
“It pushes me on because, having been at that level, I know that’s where I want to be,” she said. “I’m definitely not giving up on my dream. I still believe I can play for the national team and I know from experience what it takes to get there.
“I haven’t shown my full potential yet but in the last couple of years I feel like I’ve taken big steps towards doing that. The national team will be the next challenge. But if I can hit the goals I’ve set for my club and me personally, I’ll give myself the best possible chance.”