FIFA Women's World Cup
Sophia Smith lived up to every bit of the hype in USWNT opener
FIFA Women's World Cup

Sophia Smith lived up to every bit of the hype in USWNT opener

Updated Jul. 22, 2023 10:05 a.m. ET

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Here's the thing about Sophia Smith: She doesn't get nervous.

Not when she won a national championship with Stanford as a college sophomore and not when she won the NWSL title with the Portland Thorns a year ago.

But here's the thing about those experiences: They aren't the World Cup.

Smith, 22, played in her first World Cup match at Eden Park on Friday and scored two goals and assisted on the other in the United States' 3-0 win over Vietnam.


Take a guess as to how she was feeling.

"I don't usually get nervous, but I was nervous," Smith said afterward. "I was nervous before this game."

And she thinks she'll feel the same way before the next one Wednesday against the Netherlands, too (9 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

"It's the World Cup," Smith said. "That just shows how much it means."

USA's Sophia Smith scores goal vs. Vietnam in 14' | 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup

Smith is the youngest U.S. women's national team player to score multiple goals in her World Cup debut. She was named Player of the Match — and had the award presented to her by her dad, Kenny, afterward. She scored both goals in the first half and assisted on captain Lindsey Horan’s in the second. And there’s a lot more where that came from because Smith is just getting started.

"We're gonna expect her to do a lot," said Megan Rapinoe, who earned her 200th cap in this match. "We need her to do a lot. You know, she's one of the best players in the world and the best players in our squad, obviously. She seems ready for it. I feel like she wants that herself. Whatever pressure we put on her, she's already put on herself.

"She loves these moments. I feel like she loves being that player that has it on her shoulders and looks to perform in the biggest moments."

It's true. Smith is a self-characterized winner. It's all she thinks about.

"From Day 1, I'm a winner," she said recently. "I have to win. It makes me sick to lose anything. Card games, anything. When it comes to soccer, I just find a way."

[Behind Sophia Smith's supreme confidence]

Smith's starting spot at this World Cup has been set in stone for a while. More than a year ago, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said that it would be "extremely difficult" for another player to take her spot on this roster. And that statement has held up quite nicely. That's because she's fearless, creative and thrives at taking defenders one-on-one.

That's what she did on her first goal Friday. In the 14th minute, Horan made a classic no-look pass to Alex Morgan, who flicked the ball to a speeding Smith, who took one touch past a defender before finishing with her left foot.

USA's Sophia Smith scores goal vs. Vietnam in 45+7' | 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup

Immediately afterward, Taylor Swift's "...Ready for it?" appropriately blared through Eden Park.

Is the rest of this World Cup field ready for Smith?

"I felt good," Smith said before acknowledging that the USWNT left more scoring chances on the table. "It was good to just get a game under my belt. I was feeling all the emotions going into it and not really knowing what to expect. So to start off on a good note, it feels good and it makes me just more excited for the next game."

As her captain put it: "She’s incredible," Horan said.

One of Smith's signature characteristics is the way in which she wears her hair in a bubble braid on game days. Friday, though, she fixed her braid in the more traditional way.

"I've been doing this in my last few NWSL games and I've scored in every one," Smith said, smiling. "So I can't go back."

USWNT's Sophia Smith reflects on win against Vietnam and looks forward to the journey ahead

Before leaving for New Zealand, Smith went on a goal-scoring tear through the NWSL. She scored six in the last four games for the Thorns, including a hat trick in the most recent one on June 23. She leads the league with 10 goals in 13 games – and that's even with missing the last two because of the World Cup – prompting questions earlier in the week on if she thought that momentum would follow her this summer.

"Any type of confidence that I have from the NWSL, I bring it with me into this [World Cup]," she said. "Obviously it's a whole different ball game. It's hard. And I'm just excited for that next challenge and hope to be that same player that I am in the NWSL with this team and that's contributing in any way I can. If it's scoring goals, if it's assisting, if it's just working my butt off to do the dirty work, I'll do it."

Smith will have to get used to answering questions about winning the Golden Boot after every match. So far, she's been asked about the award, which is given to the tournament's top scorer, at least twice in four days. But she's getting good at her answer.

[Golden Boot race tracker: USWNT star Sophia Smith stakes early lead]

"I've told everyone I want to win a World Cup and whatever comes with that, comes with that," Smith said.

If Game 1 is any indication, contributing to goals is what comes with that.

United States vs. Vietnam Highlights | 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of "Strong Like a Woman," published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
United States
FIFA Women's World Cup

Get more from FIFA Women's World Cup Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more