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

Sophia Smith had options, but in the end she felt like she was “not done” in Portland.

The Thorns announced Wednesday that they have signed Smith to a contract extension through 2025 with a player option for 2026. Portland says the 23-year-old striker’s contract gives her the highest annual salary in the National Women’s Soccer League, but declined to provide details of the terms.

“I felt so welcomed and so loved and so believed in myself, and I just felt like I wasn’t done here. And there are still things I want to do with this team and this club and trophies I want to win,” she said. “And just with the new ownership, I already felt that this club is simply 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 begins her fifth season with the Thorns. She was the NWSL’s Most Valuable Player and the 2022 U.S. Soccer Player of the Year. She was also MVP of the NWSL Championship Game that year. She was set to become a free agent after this season and was attracting interest from European clubs.

“It is a new era for us and the Bhathal family has been very clear about their vision for this club. And we are all united in this vision. And one of the key ingredients was making sure Sophia Smith was here,” said general manager Karina LeBlanc, the former Canadian national goalkeeper.

“For her, this is a place she always wanted to be. For her to sign that contract, I think we’re eight months ahead of where she could actually have done it. She says, ‘I just wanted to get this.’ Season is going and I just wanted to get this done.

Looking to a greater leadership role

Smith was the first overall pick in the 2020 NWSL draft after helping Stanford to a victory over North Carolina in the 2019 NCAA College Cup Championship. She scored three goals in the Cardinals’ semifinal victory over UCLA and was named College Cup Most Valuable Player.

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

Smith is a regular on the U.S. national team and played in the Women’s World Cup last summer. Since making her U.S. debut in 2020, she has scored 16 goals in 44 appearances.

Speaking to a small group of reporters on the eve of the team’s announcement, Smith said she wants to take on a greater leadership role with the Thorns.

“I don’t think anyone is perfect or any player has ever reached their full potential. So I think I want to grow into more of a leadership role on this team. “I want to be a player who brings everyone around me into games,” she said.

“I think that’s a big thing for me, being less individual and getting my teammates involved in the games, whatever that looks like, and just making this team really special and contributing in any way that I can.”

Smith felt the new owner made her more comfortable. The team was up for sale at the end of 2022 after a misconduct scandal involving a former Thorns coach rocked the league.

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

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