To slightly misquote Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, the girls are back in town. Yup, you heard that right. Women’s professional soccer is back.
Resurrected from the ashes of the failed WPS and WUSA through a jointly subsidized venture by the USSF, the Canadian Soccer Association and the Mexican Football Federation, the new eight team National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is looking to finally find the right formula for women’s soccer in the States.
The first order of business for the fledgling league was to allocate the fifty-five players whose salaries are covered by their respective national federations, and I was intrigued to see who ended up where. Would big name players stay with their older clubs, or would some be picked up teams closer to home? And of all the players out there, the one I always tend to keep an eye out for is fellow Cincinnati native, Heather Mitts.
A long time member of the US Women’s National Team setup with an impressive 138 caps, Heather has earned three Olympic Gold medals and a World Cup runner’s up medal in the process. Mitts is also one of the few players in NWSL who has had the privilege of playing in the other two editions of a top-tier American women’s league. And if for some reason you’ve not heard of the marking back for her on-field exploits, it’s quite possible you have heard about her off of it thanks to stunning good looks that have earned her a modeling career. All in all, not too bad a gig for a girl from Ohio.
So with the launch of the new league just around the corner, I thought this would be a great time to reach out to Heather to pick her brain about NWSL, her career with the national team and more.
D.J. @ WSOTP: Firstly, thanks for joining me for the discussion. Secondly, let’s start this off by asking the all important, default question asked of anyone from Cincinnati: are you an Eastsider or a Westsider?
Heather Mitts: Eastside.
D.J. @ WSOTP: Ahh, that was hard to decipher since you went to and played at St. Ursula Academy, an unusually heterogeneous school when it comes to what part of town the students come from. So, now that we have that out of the way, who did you play your club soccer for growing up?
Heather Mitts: I actually played for a lot of different clubs in Cincinnati. I started with the Classics, then I moved to play with Clifton Racers. After that I played for Chiquita, then Club Cincinnati, and then finally I played for the Cardinals before leaving for college.
D.J. @ WSOTP: I forgot all about Cincinnati Chiquita… I always loved their kits! Now if you were anything like me, I always tried to emulate the play of a professional player while I was growing up and playing club. As a young left back, I tried to play like Brazilian wingback Roberto Carlos. Was there a player you idolized or tried to emulate?
Heather Mitts: Honestly, Paulette Angelicia was my first soccer role model. She was a senior when I was a freshman at St. Ursula Academy. I didn’t have the luxury of having many female role models much less soccer role models growing up like we do today.
D.J. @ WSOTP: So you’ve gone from a small town girl to a well established member of the US Women’s National Team. With an NCAA title, 3 Olympic Gold medals, a World Cup and 138 caps to your name, I’d imagine picking out your favorite moment might be a challenging task… but I’m going to ask anyway! Is there a game, tournament or result that really sticks out?
Heather Mitts: Winning the National Championship at University of Florida — in only our fourth year of existence — by beating UNC when we were heavy underdogs was pretty amazing. Also, coming back from my ACL rupture to contribute in the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal win was very special to me, too.
D.J. @ WSOTP: Now that the NWSL is set to bring top-tier women’s soccer back to the States, and with you rejoining a new iteration of the Boston Breakers along with fellow Nats’ Heather O’Reilly and Sydney Leroux, I’d imagine your pretty excited to get back to playing again.
Heather Mitts: There needs to be a professional league in the US. With the growth of the sport in the past two years, I hope that the third time is a charm.
D.J. @ WSOTP: Now a veteran of all three women’s leagues, how do you see your role on your new team versus the role you played when you were first drafted by the Philadelphia Charge back in 2000?
Heather Mitts: The [Philadelphia] Charge days were amazing. Straight out of college, a rookie, playing professional soccer… it was a dream come true! Though over time, it went from a dream to the reality that this is my job, but I still love playing. I am just happy to be around still to help the sport continue to grow.
D.J. @ WSOTP: With the failures of WPS and WUSA hanging over the newly minted NWSL’s head, what lessons do you think the new league will need to have learned to be a success this time around?
Heather Mitts: Start small and be efficient with our money. The on field product was always there and will continue to be, especially now in the NWSL.
D.J. @ WSOTP: It’s no secret that you’re an attractive lady — having been featured in SI’s Swimsuit Edition and voted Hottest Female Athlete in multiple publications. But I’m curious to know your thoughts on how female athlete attractiveness has propelled interest in women’s soccer versus the same effect achieved through your and the national team’s on field exploits.
Heather Mitts: I hear it all the time, that people come to the games because they are intrigued by someone’s looks. But what ends up happening is, when they get there, they are amazed at how talented we actually are on the field. And because of that, they end up falling in love with us as players, too.
D.J. @ WSOTP: Most everyone in the soccer community here in Cincinnati is probably familiar with the Heather Mitts Soccer Pro Camp that you host each summer. Tell us a little about why you decided to offer a camp and what you hope to achieve by regularly working with the next generation of players from your hometown?
Heather Mitts: Partly, it’s because I absolutely loved camps growing up. But I also enjoy working with the youth players, to teach and inspire them. I have so much knowledge and experience that I want to share with them. Plus, it feels good to come home and be able to hold a camp every year.
D.J. @ WSOTP: Speaking of your hometown, if you had to pick just one of the following to Cincy-staples to open up shop near you in Boston, which would it be and why: Skyline Chili, Greater’s Ice Cream or LaRosa’s Pizza?
Heather Mitts: All of them are delicious, but hands down, I’d love to have a Graeter’s in Boston. I can’t get enough of it!
D.J. @ WSOTP: Now that you’re approaching the twilight of your playing career, where do you see your future post-soccer? You have your camps, which could indicate an interest in coaching. But you were also an advertising major in college, and have numerous appearances working the sidelines and studios for ESPN. What’s in the next chapter for Heather Mitts?
Heather Mitts: I will always continue the camps and individual training that I’m doing now. However, I would like to pursue a TV career again on a full-time basis… and just give it a shot. And while I still love playing, starting a family is in the cards, also. So I guess only time will tell what lies in my future.
D.J. @ WSOTP: Well best of luck with whatever comes next, but in the mean time, good luck out on the pitch. Thanks for sharing with us Heather!