As the United States Women’s National Team prepares to defend its World Cup crown, TopDrawerSoccer is profiling some of the players heading to their first World Cup, providing a snapshot of their development in club and college soccer.
“I’ve been saying for the last 10 years that she is going to be captain of the Women’s National Team someday.”
That day is not quite today, but Samantha Mewis is closing in on that honor. The 26-year-old midfielder made the 23-player World Cup roster for the first time for the 2019 version of the competition. With a veteran laden squad, Mewis is amongst a new wave coming in and making a mark on the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Even though this is her first time in the big World Cup spotlight, her old club coach Keith Caldwell has seen this potential in her for the past decade.
“I have been saying for 10 years that she is going to be the captain of the Women’s National Team someday,” Caldwell, who coached Mewis at Scorpions SC, told TopDrawerSoccer when asked if he foresaw her reaching this level. “It is not surprising given her ability and her intelligence and her raw work ethic. There were times when that thought ran through my head, it was all the time.”
Mewis’ genius on the field is not as obvious as some others on the World Cup roster. She dominates the game with her intelligence more than her brawn. She’s a midfielder who plays the game at her pace, and has been playing at that sophisticated level since her early club days.
Caldwell spoke about how she grew from that player on a successful youth club team to a player on the U.S. Women’s National Team World Cup roster.
“Samantha was always incredibly talented,” Caldwell said. “She was incredibly driven. She is incredibly intelligent. Not only is she pure work ethic - work at her game - she is going to going to do it in an intelligent way where she is understanding her weaknesses and understanding where she can polish. Also, she is well aware of where her strengths are so she will continue to make those even stronger as well.”
Mewis’ is a brilliant soccer mind. She sees passing angles that other players can’t read. She anticipates the game at an elite level for the international game. Caldwell pointed to that as another key piece to the puzzle.
“I guess the third component is related to her intelligence,” Caldwell said. “It is her understanding of the game. She is very smart, but she also really knows soccer. Her ability to understand the game coupled with her hard work and raw intelligence enable her to really progress over the course of her career.”
Mewis gives credit to her older sister, Kristie Mewis, for paving the path and also shining the light on the possibilities for her.
“She was called in always right before me so with the Youth Team she would get her call-up a year or two before me,” Samantha Mewis told reporters at a media roundtable last week. “Every time she would make a state team or a regional team or get called into a Youth National Team, it kind of made me say this is possible. They might notice me on this level. This could happen. I’ve always said that her success - she cleared the path for me. It validated what I wanted. She did it first. Seeing her get her first couple of caps and seeing her succeed here made me say that it was possible because I knew everything that she had done to get there that I had done that too. I watched her train. I think that my sister’s experience on this team made me think that it was possible for myself.”
She also attributes her path to this plateau for her game developing at UCLA.
“I had to learn a lot about myself in college and myself as a player,” Mewis said. “I went to a U20 World Cup during my college years, which we won which was really cool. And we won the [NCAA Division I] National Championship when I was there. But I think my performance as a player really had to improve. I was pretty rocky my first three years and it wasn’t until my senior year that I really had a great season. I had to learn how to take care of myself. How to perform on game day. What it would take to play at this level. UCLA definitely taught me that.”
Mewis’ contributions during her senior season at UCLA in 2014 were 16 goals scored (more than her other three seasons combined) and 13 assists (also her season high). She took her game to the next level during that final collegiate campaign.
The fourth selection in the 2015 NWSL draft, she quickly became a staple in the professional game for the then Western New York Flash and now North Carolina Courage. She has not looked back since then. A finalist for the Rookie of the Year her debut season, she remains a key piece for the perennial favorites in the league, and helped the Courage claim the 2018 NWSL title.
She’s carved out a significant role with the National Team as well with three starts in the last four games in the lead-up to the World Cup, which kicks off on Tuesday for the USA. Mewis is expected to bring her intelligent play to the veteran squad that is looking to defend its title in France.
With reporting from Jeff Kassouf (Equalizer Soccer).