Sophia Smith voted 2022 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, becomes the first Black woman to win the award

Sophia Smith voted 2022 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, becomes the first Black woman to win the award

The Sophia Smith era is in full swing. The 22-year-old forward was voted 2022 U.S Soccer Player of the Year on Friday and subsequently became the first Black woman to win the award in its 38-year history.

It’s a first-time honor for Smith following a 2022 calendar year where she was the leading scorer for the United States women’s national team. Smith had a stellar club season with Portland Thorns FC with a team-high 15 goals, which ranked second in NWSL behind Alex Morgan. Smith won the 2022 NWSL Championship and MVP honors for the game by scoring the opening goal in a 2-0 win over the Kansas City Current. The 22-year-old also made history by becoming youngest NWSL MVP winner.

“Obviously this is surreal, and I’m super humbled,” said Smith. “It’s been a very exiting year, and certainly there’s been some challenges, but just being able to grow and develop in the environments with the National Team and the Thorns, and being surround by such amazing players, players that I have looked up to for so long, has pushed me to become a better player and person.”

Smith is the 19th different player to earn win the award in the history of the senior women’s national team program. She was the youngest player to lead the USWNT in scoring since 1994, and was second on the team with 1,192 minutes played. She became the the youngest USWNT player since 2000 and the fifth-youngest to net a hat trick in in USWNT history with her three-goal performance on April 9 vs. Uzbekistan. 

“I’ve said many times, if you embrace these environments, you have no choice but to get better and grow, and that’s a testament to the players, coaches and all of the staff. I appreciate everyone holding me to such high standards day in and day out. This award wouldn’t be possible without all those people, and the best thing about it, is that it’s fun too. The journey is so much better when you are doing something so fun and something you love.”

Want more coverage of women’s soccer? Listen below and make sure to follow Attacking Third, A CBS Soccer Podcast devoted to bringing you everything you need to know from the NWSL and around the globe.  

Smith makes history

The youngster is just beginning to establish her legacy among the USWNT, and her recent player of the year award is another historical moment that is breaking barriers. Smith is the first Black woman to earn the honors in the near 40-year history of the senior women’s national team program.

For a second year, fans were able to vote for the U.S. Soccer Player and Young Player of the Year Awards with those votes weighted at 15% of the total. Of the five finalists for the Female Player of the Year Award, Smith garnered 50.8% of the overall tabulated votes followed by Alex Morgan (18.4%).

The U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year has been awarded since 1985, with midfielder Sharon Remer voted the first Female Player of the Year honor. Abby Wambach won it six times, the most of any player, while Mia Hamm won it five times.

Who’s got next?

Jayden Shaw was voted 2022 Young Female Player of the Year. The votes were more narrow in the category Shaw earned 35.1% of the overall vote, just ahead of forward Alyssa Thompson (34.4%) — Thompson made her debut for the senior USWNT this year at age 17. 

Shaw made the leap to the pro level in 2022, signing with San Diego Wave FC via the NWSL Discovery Process and scored the game-winner in her pro debut with the Wave against the Chicago Red Stars. 

“It means everything to me to be a part of the list of players who have won this award, but it also tells me I have so much work to do to keep improving and growing,” said Shaw. “I just feel super honored and blessed and it’s an amazing way start to the year. I want to say thank you to everyone who voted for me and to all the National Team coaches I’ve worked with since the U-14 level and to my coaches on the Wave. Thanks also to all my teammates who have pushed me and will continue to push me. All of this makes me even more excited to get going with this NWSL season and to get back into camps with the Youth National Teams. I’m just excited for what’s to come and I wouldn’t be where I am today without God’s grace and favor over my life.”