“If your dreams and ambitions are to play for England, play in the WSL because it’s a fantastic league. Everything’s there for you now”
By Liam Grace
Last Updated: 07/04/20 3:00pm
Lionesses legend Kelly Smith feels female footballers in England no longer need American soccer scholarships to make it in the professional game as the Women’s Super League (WSL) is the best in the world.
The WSL has grown significantly in recent years with new investment and sponsors – as well as increased media coverage – resulting in bigger names coming to the league, larger crowds and better facilities for the players.
Smith, who scored 46 times for England in 117 appearances from 1995 to 2014, started her career in England with Arsenal before moving to the United States to pursue her career in women’s football, signing for Seton Hall Pirates in 1997.
She spent a combined total of 11 years playing in the USA – also playing for Philadelphia Charge, New Jersey Wildcats and Boston Breakers – and a combined total of 10 years playing for Arsenal after two London returns.
“Now, when youngsters come to me and say: ‘Should I go to America on a soccer scholarship?’ I say you don’t need to now,” Smith told The Game Changers podcast.
“If you want to be a professional in this country, this is probably the best league in the world now. So, you don’t need to go to America like I did.
“You can stay here and if your dreams and ambitions are to play for England, play in the WSL because it’s a fantastic league, very competitive and everything’s there for you now.”
With an accelerated public interest in the women’s game, also showcased in growing broadcast viewing figures for England matches, Smith, who retired in 2017, believes there has been a shift in opportunities for women across the entire sport.
She said: “There is a career in football now for women, not just if they want to play football, but you could be a referee, you could be a coach, you could be a journalist, anything within the game now – you could be a pundit, but a few years ago the opportunities weren’t really there.”
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