US SoccerUS Soccer

Fun Loving Meghan Klingenberg Helps U-20s to the World Cup Final

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, Meghan Klingenberg shared a dream with countless other young female soccer players. She wanted to one day play for the U.S. Women’s National Team and don the jersey that her soccer idol, Michelle Akers, once wore.

A consistent call-up to the U.S. Youth National Teams since the Under-16 level, the skillful and crafty Klingenberg had risen through the ranks and, in 2007, worked her way into the pool of players competing for spots on the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Team.

After former U-20 coach Jillian Ellis moved on to become an assistant to the senior Women’s National Team, U.S. coaching legend Tony DiCicco stepped in. Klingenberg, then a freshman at UNC, missed the first few camps under DiCicco with an ankle injury (she still doesn’t know how she hurt her ankle executing a diving header) but was ready for the team’s trip to Cyprus last March. Playing against full women’s national teams from Europe, the feisty winger quickly earned a place in the starting lineup and has been there ever since.

Now, after years of preparation – and dreaming - Klingenberg is playing in her first-ever world championship and has helped the U.S. earn a place in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Final. One of the most consistent players on the roster, the right-footed Klingenberg has performed with class at left back through her four starts, shutting down some very talented attacking players much larger than herself.

“As I’ve gotten comfortable with the team and gotten to know everyone, I think my role has changed,” she explained. “In the beginning people looked at me and wondered how I was going to prove myself and contribute. As time has gone by I hope the team knows that they can count on me on the field.”

It is that kind of trust and chemistry that Klingenberg believes has translated to team success. Of course, winning games tends to bring any team closer together, but there is a stronger bond with the current U.S. U-20 WNT.

“Our team chemistry is amazing,” she said. “We have a ton of fun together. For instance, today at practice we were beating each other up during our scrimmage but afterwards we were still joking around and laughing together. I think that’s the best part of the team and what makes us stand out.”

Klingenberg describes herself as the jokester (her teammates would concur), always trying to make everyone laugh, and has never taken herself too seriously. Though an intense competitor, she realizes the importance of having a blend of personalities on the team.

“I just like to have fun,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m very competitive and I love to win, but at the same time I like to enjoy myself as much as possible.”

Her outgoing nature stems from growing up surrounded by a lot of family members, who of course have remained a big part of her life as she’s traveled the world playing the sport she loves. Her parents and grandfather journeyed all the way to Chillan, Chile, to see Klingenberg compete in the group phase of the World Cup.

Even when they can’t travel to different continents to see her play in person, Klingenberg enjoys her family’s support during her matches. Her grandparents made sure to keep track of all her games, whether in person or on the Internet.

Not long ago, her grandfather was visiting her aunt’s house and was intently following a website to track one of her college games. His passion was enough to ignite a spark in her aunt and yet another Klingenberg super fan was born.

Klingenberg has already realized one of her soccer dreams: playing for the University of North Carolina. The legendary program boasts one of the most dominant dynasties in sports history and a list of former players that includes U.S. National Team stars Mia Hamm, Cindy Parlow and Kristine Lilly and more recently Cat Whitehill, Heather O’Reilly, Lori Chalupny and Lindsay Tarpley.

After watching UNC play when she was just seven years old, Klingenberg convinced her parents to take her to the Chapel Hill campus. It was love at first sight.

“Ever since then I made sure I trained my butt off to give myself a chance to go there,” she said.

As her Tar Heels head into the NCAA championship game without her and U.S. and UNC teammate Nikki Washington, who has also contributed greatly to the USA’s run in Chile, she knows that an even bigger goal is within her reach if she can help the USA win a world championship.

Klingenberg has dreams to one day play in the Olympics and senior Women’s World Cups, but for now, winning the U-20 Women’s World Cup is her focus as this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is just 90 minutes away.

As her inspirational and mature play in Chile has been seen back in the United States with all the games being broadcast on the ESPN family of networks or Galavision, there is no doubt that more Klingenberg super fans have been created.

Perhaps even Michelle Akers has caught a game? If she had, she would be proud that her legacy has spawned a person and player like Klingenberg, whose passion on and off the field has played a major role in helping the U.S. women into yet another Women’s World Cup Final.