Geographically, Sophia Smith’s homeland is an exception, relatively speaking, to the wealth of the native Colorados who dot the roster of the United States women’s national team.
Smith’s comrades on the most prestigious women’s football team in the country try to tease her about this as often as possible.
Football fans will get the chance to watch the best of the best on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park as USWNT takes on Colombia (17:30, FS1) in the first of two setup matches leading up to the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship. , which starts July 4th in Mexico.
The tournament is also a qualifier for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as well as the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The line-up, unveiled Saturday at the Colorado Rapids home, will have a special Centennial State flavor. In addition to Smith, who calls Windsor home, the line-up includes national team veterans Mallory Pugh (Highlands Ranch) and Lindsey Horan (Golden).
Another player with Windsor roots, Jaelin Howell — winner of the 2021 Florida State Herman Award for the best college player in the country — was listed for training camp and two friendlies against Colombia. Also making her national team debut is Taylor Cornick, who spent a record-breaking four-year career at the University of Colorado.
“The Denver girls joke that I’m kind of from Wyoming because I’m not from Denver,” Smith said during a USWNT training camp at the Denver Broncos’ Centennial headquarters this week. Mel said, “You’re mostly from Wyoming.” It’s just funny because we’re all from different places in Colorado.
“It’s like a family on a team. Jelyn and I grew up together. I’ve known Mel for a long time. Lindsey and I are very close. It’s really interesting. And for all of us to do this together, to come home and play in front of our families, this will be a night we will all remember for a long time.”
Smith grew up in a basketball family. Her sister Savannah is the top scorer on the University of Northern Colorado women’s basketball team. But she has steadily shifted that family focus throughout her career.
After graduating from Fossil Ridge High, Smith spent two seasons at Stanford.
She was second team All-Pac-12. She was also selected to the All-Freshman Team after her freshman season, despite that campaign ending early due to injury. However, Smith delivered on her promise to be one of the nation’s top prospects in 2019 with 17 goals and 9 assists in 21 games.
Smith scored a pair of hat-tricks during the NCAA Tournament, which ended with Stanford winning the national championship. That same fall, Smith received her first senior USWNT call. She entered the 2020 NWSL Draft and was selected as the top pick in a draft that saw Pac-12 prospects finish in the top four (Cornick was third).
In her final NWSL game against Portland before returning to the national team, Smith scored a pair of goals to bring her season total to eight, second most in the league and already surpassing the seven she scored as a rookie. A return to Colorado along with other natives in the country’s top team has already been a highlight in Smith’s career.
“This state is doing something right in terms of producing very, very good football players,” Smith said. “I think it will only get better. I know there are a few girls from Colorado on the youth teams. You will see more people leaving this state, who create national teams, make squads. It’s exciting.”