Varsity Extra

Two Idaho natives are chasing World Cup dreams – on opposite sides of the border

Centennial High graduate Sofia Huerta has made four appearances for the U.S. women’s soccer team since September. She was named to the roster for two upcoming friendlies against Mexico, her former team.
Centennial High graduate Sofia Huerta has made four appearances for the U.S. women’s soccer team since September. She was named to the roster for two upcoming friendlies against Mexico, her former team. Idaho Statesman file

One Idaho native is making a name for herself with the U.S. women’s national soccer team. Another is quickly becoming a regular for the Mexican squad.

And the two could take the same field as the U.S. hosts Mexico for a pair of friendlies this week: Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla., (5 p.m., FS1) and Sunday in Houston (10:30 a.m., FOX).

The U.S. selected Boise native and Centennial High grad Sofia Huerta as part of its 22-player pool for the friendlies, while Mexico named American Falls High grad Maria Sanchez to its 21-player pool.

Both are fighting for more playing time and roles ahead of World Cup qualifying in October.

Huerta, 25, has made four appearances for the U.S. as a defender since FIFA approved her one-time change of national association in September after she played for Mexico at the U-20 World Cup in 2012. She tallied an assist in her national team debut the following day, making her the first player from Idaho to ever play for the U.S.

She is also the first to play for and against the U.S. She suited up for Mexico in a 2013 friendly against the United States. Huerta’s father, Mauricio, was born in Mexico, making her eligible for the Mexican team.

“To go through all this has been an interesting experience, but one where I learned a lot about myself,” Huerta told the U.S national team’s website. “When I played for Mexico against the USA in 2013, I can’t even explain to you what that felt like. I grew up here and my goal was to play for the U.S., but I was playing for Mexico. And I was proud, but I also remember thinking how much I wanted to try to play for the U.S. if I ever got the chance.

“Now, if I get the opportunity to roster for one of the upcoming games and play against Mexico, I think that it will almost be a symbol of what I’ve been working for my whole life. And it would be so special because I would be playing against a team that I respect so much.

“I have nothing but love for Mexico and I’m so grateful for them because they’ve always supported me and if I hadn’t played for Mexico and gotten that international experience, I don’t know if I would be with the U.S. team now. It would mean a lot to me and it would be surreal if I have a chance to step on the field.”

Sanchez has made 10 appearances for Mexico’s senior team, including one during the 2015 World Cup. Since then, the 22-year-old midfielder has worked her way into the lineup regularly the past five months. She played in all four games for Mexico at the Turkish Women’s Cup in March, including one start. She also started a friendly against Costa Rica in November.

Both of Sanchez’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico 30 years ago, and she got on the national team radar by attending an open tryout in Los Angeles in 2015. She scored 178 career goals at American Falls, including 68 as a senior, but Idaho State was the only college program to offer her a scholarship.

After her sophomore season, she transferred from Idaho State to national powerhouse Santa Clara, where Huerta suited up before getting drafted by the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League.

“Since childhood, it was a dream to play for Mexico,” Sanchez told the international sports website Vavel in January. “They always asked me if someday they would give me a choice between the United States or Mexico, and I always said, ‘Mexico.’ 

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama

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