Sofia Huerta’s journey hasn't been an easy one, but she’s finally right where she belongs.
Coming out of high school, Huerta wasn’t heavily recruited. She believes one of the main reasons for that is because she didn’t have the proper resources in Boise, Idaho.
After having an impressive career at Santa Clara University, Huerta was drafted by the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women's Soccer League in 2015. She had 22 goals in 74 appearances with the club.
Initially, Huerta was utilized as a forward and attacking midfielder. The United States women’s national team, however, had plans for her at outside back.
Once Huerta’s initial run with the national team came to an end, she joined Sydney FC in Australia to improve her skillset as an outside back. That turned out to be the best move for her career.
Huerta returned to the USWNT in 2021, appearing in friendlies against Australia. This year, she’s out to prove she belongs on the roster for years to come.
We caught up with Sofia Huerta to discuss her partnership with Signing Day Sports, the USWNT’s recent settlement, her journey to get back on the national team and much more.
The Spun: Can you tell me about your partnership with Signing Day Sports?
Sofia Huerta: For sure. I think I’m a perfect fit to collaborate with Signing Day Sports because I’m from Idaho and I had such an interesting journey to college. I grew up in a state that honestly didn’t get a lot of exposure when it comes to soccer. We didn’t play all year around, we weren’t playing every weekend in front of college coaches. I really wasn’t seen, and that affected who I was recruited by. A lot of players from California and other states had way more exposure. I wasn’t really recruited by those big schools because of where I was from. Thinking about what my journey could’ve been like if Signing Day Sports was a thing when I was in high school, I don’t know where I would’ve gone. Obviously, I’m happy of where I’m at for sure. But it was definitely a struggle for me, and I wasn’t sure of where I was going to end up. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get seen sometimes. But this [Signing Day Sports] is a great platform for athletes to interact with coaches and get their talents out there.
The Spun: Were you surprised when you saw the percentage of high school players that are under-recruited?
SH: I think, because of where I’m from, I was under the impression that a lot of people were able to have an opportunity and maybe I was just one of few. Clearly, that’s not the reality. A lot of athletes are unable to further their careers because of the lack of resources.
The Spun: In May, the U.S. Soccer Federation agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that will equalize FIFA World Cup money. What was your initial reaction to that deal?
SH: I think it’s bittersweet, right? Obviously, we’re so excited and happy that we agreed to a number and we’ll be given what we deserve and what we’re valued for. But I think it also shows that we’ve been underpaid and underappreciated for so long. No one wants to go through that tough process, but we knew this was necessary. For so long we were doing the same thing the men’s team was doing, and more - winning the World Cup, winning the Olympics. And yet, we weren’t being paid the same. When we found out we were going to be treated equally, it was a great day. At the same time, we were like, ‘Why did we have to fight for this to happen?’ As females, we had to do more than our job to get equality. We were playing while fighting for equality. That’s something the men don’t have to do. But overall, we were really glad about this settlement and what’s to come in the future.
The Spun: The United States is coming off a pair of wins over Colombia. Overall, what’s the confidence level of the team heading into what’s expected to be a very important July?
SH: You’re so right, it’s a huge month for us. Historically, we play a lot of games in the United States, which means we’re in a stadium where everyone is cheering for us. Now, we’re going to Mexico. We are going to play teams that want to really beat us, and the fans there will be rooting against us. It’s a whole different element. Then, you have to factor in the weather. The good thing, however, is we’ve always been set up for success with this team. Playing a team like Colombia before these matchups is a nice test. The first half, we didn’t score any goals. We had a lot of opportunities, but we just didn’t capitalize. I think we’re all under the same impression that if we just keep pushing, the goals will come.
The Spun: What’s the most hostile environment you’ve played in?
SH: I think in the NWSL, playing at Portland is always difficult. They have such a huge fan base and they’re so intense. I actually love playing there because they’re so loud that it impacts the game. It’s hard to communicate with the people next to you during the game. My national team journey has been mostly surrounded by U.S. fans, but I can imagine Mexico will be one of the hardest. The veteran players talk about the 2010 loss to Mexico. It’s great having them on the squad to shed some light and advice on what to expect in this upcoming tournament.
The Spun: You built some momentum in June, earning NWSL Player of the Week honors. How do you feel about your play heading into the second half of the season?
SH: I obviously think I can get better. My journey has been so insane. I wasn’t a top recruit coming out of high school, I started playing for Mexico, then I went to the United States, and then I was moved to outside back when I was always in an attacking role. I was with the national team for a year and a half, but then I stopped getting called in. After getting cut by the national team in 2018, I asked myself if I missed a golden opportunity. But everything happens for a reason, which eventually led me back to the team. I prepared myself for that moment by going to Australia during the offseason and practicing at outside back. Fast forward to 2021, and I was put back at the position. Confidence comes from preparation, and I’ve prepared myself for this opportunity. I have such a great support system with the NWSL and U.S. women’s national team right now. I think outside back totally caters to the qualities I have.
The Spun: What would it mean to you to represent the United States in the World Cup in 2023?
SH: I pretty much got the chills when you said that. It has been my dream for so long. I would feel every emotion possible. It would really reassure all the decisions I’ve made over the last few years. No one ever thought I’d be on the United States women’s national team, but I trusted my gut, and at the end of the day, I knew what I was capable of. The World Cup seems far away, but I know if I continue to do what I’m capable of, I can make the team. It would truly be the best thing ever.
In addition to her work on the pitch, Huerta is trying to help the next generation of athletes get the opportunities and recognition they deserve. That’s why she’s so excited to team up with Signing Day Sports, a digital ecosystem that helps athletes get discovered and recruited for college sports across the country.
Soccer fans will get to see Huerta in action for the USWNT on July 4 against Haiti.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.