Sophia Smith signs contract extension with Portland for highest annual NWSL salary


PORTLAND, Ore. — Sophia Smith had options but in the end felt like she “wasn’t done” in Portland.

The Thorns announced Wednesday that they signed Smith to a contract extension through 2025, with a player option for 2026. Portland says the deal gives the 23-year-old forward the highest annual salary in the National Women’s Soccer League but would not disclose terms.

“I’ve felt so welcomed and so loved and so believed in and I just felt like I wasn’t done here. And there’s still things that I want to do with this team and this club and trophies I want to win,” she said. “And just with new ownership coming in, I have already felt that this club is just going in the right direction.”

The Thorns were sold in January to the Bhathal family, which is also part of the ownership group of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Smith is embarking on her fifth season with the Thorns. She was the NWSL’s most valuable player and the U.S. Soccer player of the year in 2022. She was also the NWSL championship game MVP that year. She was set to become a free agent after this season and had some interest from European clubs.

“It’s a new era for us and the Bhathal family have been very clear of the vision that they have for this club. And we’re all aligned in that vision. And one of the key ingredients was to make sure that Sophia Smith was here,” general manager Karina LeBlanc said. “For her, this is a place she always wanted to be. For her to sign this contract, I think we’re eight months ahead of when she actually could have made it play out. She’s like, ‘I just wanted to get the season going and I just wanted this to be done.’”

Smith was the top pick in the NWSL draft in 2020 after helping Stanford to a victory over North Carolina in the 2019 NCAA College Cup championship. She scored three goals in the Cardinal’s semifinal victory over UCLA and was named the College Cup’s most valuable player.

She has scored 40 goals across all competitions with the Thorns, and her 11 goals last season — in 17 matches — earned her the league’s Golden Boot award.

A regular on the U.S. national team, Smith played in last summer’s Women’s World Cup. She has scored 16 goals in 44 appearances since her U.S. debut in 2020.

Smith said she wants to take a greater leadership role on the Thorns.

“I don’t believe anyone is perfect or any player has hit their full potential ever. So I think for me, I want to grow into more of a leadership role on this team. I want to be a player that kind of brings everyone around me into games,” she said. “I think that’s a big thing for me, is being less individual and bringing my teammates into games, whatever that looks like, and just kind of making this team something really special and contributing to that in any way that I can.”

Smith credited the new ownership with making her more comfortable. The team had been put up for sale in late 2022 after a misconduct scandal involving a former Thorns coach shook the league.

“I have just been waiting for some stability and some reassurance that this club is headed in the right direction and the Bhathal family coming in is doing exactly that, if not more,” she said. “Their vision for this club is so exciting. You can just tell how passionate they are about making this what it should be, and continuing to push the standard in women’s soccer globally, and making the Portland Thorns a center of that and in any way that they can.”

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