From Stanford to NWSL, Sophia Smith’s career on the rise

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Thorns rookie Sophia Smith laughs when she recalls the conversation with her dad back in high school about her blossoming soccer career.

The No. 1 pick in the National Women’s Soccer League draft out of Stanford and U.S. national-team prospect comes from a family of basketball players — and it was just assumed she’d head in the same direction.

But no.

“I think he quietly knew that I liked soccer more. But when I had to finally decide and just kind of cut basketball out for good, it was a tough few months, but we got over it,” she said. “He loves soccer now.”

Turned out Smith was right to choose soccer. It paved her way to Stanford and a national title in December, and now to a blossoming career in the NWSL.

Smith did not play in the NWSL’s Challenge Cup tournament in Utah this summer because of an injury, but in her first match as a professional this month, she entered as a substitute and scored against the Utah Royals.

Although it wasn’t official — the league’s fall series games, a chance for teams to get in some games amid the pandemic, don’t count — it was a good indication of Smith’s promise. And it wasn’t the first time she scored in a debut: She scored 17 minutes into her first game as a freshman at Stanford.

Smith grew up in Colorado. Dad Kenny Smith played basketball at Wyoming and sister Savannah is the all-time career scoring leader for Northern Colorado.