Fans of the United States’ women’s soccer team have heard all about Alex Morgan, Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, and Hope Solo. These are all established names in U.S. soccer, but it’s time to pass the torch on to the younger generation. Players can only remain at the top of their sport for so long, so who is the next big hope for American soccer? It seems as though all signs point toward Mallory Pugh being the next big hope for the U.S. women’s soccer team.
Mallory Pugh’s rise through the ranks to feature in the women’s national team wasn’t a huge surprise to those who had been following her career from the beginning. Pugh was discovered by the U.S women’s national team at just 12 years old, and it was only a matter of time before she became a success.
As a teenager, the young forward was so good she had to train with the boys because she’d gone beyond the girls’ level at her age. The current U.S. women’s national team coach, Jill Ellis, recalls seeing Pugh play in an under-14 national camp. Pugh was younger than the other girls, and smaller, but she was fearless and was able to dribble through hordes of bigger girls easily.
Her rise wasn’t over though, and by the age of 16, she was selected in the under-20 national team. Since those days, her technique and tactical understanding have vastly improved, making her an all-around great player.
Where her love for soccer began
Pugh’s father, Horace, recalls the one thing that truly amazed him about his daughter when she was growing up was her inability to feel pain. He said that when she fell ten feet onto her wrist, she showed the injury to her father, who told her she wasn’t going to be able to play in a soccer tournament.
On hearing that, Mallory snapped the bone that was out of place back to where it should have been and made sure she entered the soccer tournament. She was 12, played the tournament while wearing a cast, and her father thinks she scored eight goals.
Mallory began playing soccer when she was just four, and her father thinks she learned to understand it by the time she was six. He said at that age all the kids run around in a huddle, but Mallory would stand to the side and wait for the ball to pop out to her.
Pugh seems to have a deep love for soccer, and Horace recalls how often Mallory would watch soccer on her Hello Kitty television. She was permanently tuned into Telemundo and only understood one word, ‘gol.’ When Mallory was bought a computer, she’s spent most of her time looking up soccer skills on YouTube, especially those of Brazilian legend Ronaldinho.
Malloy admitted to ESPN that ever since she was little, she knew she wanted to be a professional soccer player. Even in the sixth grade that was her dream, and she has a quote that goes with her yearbook picture that year. Pugh wrote: “I want to be on the USA soccer team and win a gold medal.”
Playing with older girls
It became second nature for Pugh to play with older girls. From a very young age, her skills outshone everyone else in her age group, and Pugh ended up playing through the youth teams with the U.S. She was always pushing her limits because she felt as though the older girls were better than her.
That forced her to get better and better, even though the coaches didn’t think she was inferior to those other girls. Every time Pugh went to a soccer camp, she was given instructions by the coaches on where she could improve. She kept on getting better, and by the time she got to high school, she was encouraged to play with boys.
The next big thing
When she was in high school, Pugh was already seen as the next big thing in American women’s soccer. She was awarded the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year in 2015, plus the golden ball for the most goals at the U20 CONCACAF tournament.
Pugh kept on climbing that ladder and at 17 years old, and just months after the USA had won the Women’s World Cup, she got called to the national team. At this point, Pugh hadn’t even turned professional yet, and she was the only member of the squad who wasn’t.
Time to step up again
Pugh made her U.S. women’s national team debut against Ireland in 2015, and as she approached the end of high school, she had a decision to make. Should she honor the promise she made to go to UCLA, or should she turn pro?
Pugh enrolled at UCLA, but after one semester she realized that she wasn’t your average girl and decided it was time to play soccer as a pro. She now plays for Washington Spirit and has made over 50 appearances for the U.S women’s national soccer team.
Pugh got to play at her first World Cup in June 2019, even scoring in her first game. Mallory Pugh has arrived, and if she keeps on improving like she has her whole life, then she is the future of the women’s national team.