Focused in the Face of Pressure

World Cup Newcomers Sophia Smith and Emily Fox Savor The Experience Ahead of First World Cup

“Deleting Twitter? Best thing I’ve ever done. I have no idea what’s happening.”

While Sophia Smith may be off Twitter, she is more than aware of the pressure and expectations surrounding the U.S. Women’s National Team as kickoff to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup fast approaches.

“Being on this team, it comes with a big target on your back, it comes with pressure and it comes with a big platform,” said the 22-year-old Smith, who is coming off a whirlwind 2022 in which she was named the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, NWSL MVP and NWSL Championship Game MVP. “We all know that, this is nothing new. Even the young players who haven’t played in a World Cup, we know that.”

After winning the 2015 and 2019 titles, the question of whether the USWNT can win a third consecutive World Cup title – an unprecedented feat in the history of men’s and women’s international soccer – has become a talking point in the media.

But for this U.S. squad, which features 14 players named to their first World Cup roster, the focus is squarely on the now and proving what this collection of 23 players can do in this 2023 tournament.  

“In terms of this World Cup, we’re focusing on the first game and we’re taking it game-by-game,” said defender Emily Fox, who has been a mainstay on the USA backline since the conclusion of the 2021 Olympics. “We’re attacking the challenge at this World Cup. We’re thinking of this as a new challenge and we’re attacking it, focusing game-by-game with Vietnam first.”

With all eyes and energy on the USA’s opening match at Eden Park, Smith, Fox and the rest of the USA’s youthful contingent are energized to make the most of their opportunities.  

“It’s incredible what this team has done, and all we hope to do is continue that legacy and push the boundaries,” said Smith. “It’s an honor to be on this team and wear this crest and represent our country. We take a lot of pride in that and the pressure that comes with it, we’ve all accepted that.”