EDMONDS — Maddy Schultz is sure to have many more great memories in her soccer career, but one already stands out.
It happened last August, shortly before the beginning of her sophomore year at Edmonds-Woodway High School. Schultz was in England with the United States U-17 national soccer team, and they were at the Cobham Training Centre near London, home to Chelsea FC, one of the world’s most prestigious clubs.
As Schultz came into the locker room before the first of two matches against top British club teams, she saw her Team USA uniform for the first time.
“There’s something about walking in and they have all your jerseys hung up,” the 15-year-old Edmonds girl said. “You kind of touch everything and then you put it on and it’s your perfect size. And in a way, it’s kind of like it’s been there just waiting for you.”
The thrill of representing her country while wearing a uniform of red, white and blue “makes it seem as if all the training and all the tears are worth it,” she said.
Her father, Brian Schultz, had a similar experience when he traveled to Jamaica a month ago to watch Maddy play in a 2014 U-17 World Cup qualifying tournament. He struck up conversations with people who asked why he was in Jamaica, “and I’d say I was there to watch my daughter play soccer. They’d say, ‘Oh, who does she play for?’ You get to say, ‘The United States of America.’ And you know what, that just takes your breath away.
“When they play the national anthem and you realize your kid has a uniform that says USA on it, it’s pretty humbling,” he added. “To be there and have the honor of representing your country, that’s just not a conversation you ever expect to have.”
Schultz, a forward, started playing soccer as a young girl in Edmonds, but within a few years had progressed to a top Seattle-area select team. She got her first invitation to a national team camp when she was 12, and has since been to several more camps including, already in 2013, ones in California, Ohio and Florida, in addition to her 12-day summer trip to England.
The Jamaica tournament, held in Montego Bay from late October to early November, was the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) U-17 Women’s Championship, a qualifier for next year’s U-17 Women’s World Cup.
The tournament mostly went very well for the United States, with one heartbreaking exception.
In a semifinal match, the Americans played Mexico to a 1-1 tie (it was the only goal the U.S. gave up in five games) and then lost on penalty kicks, costing them a place in next year’s World Cup.
The disappointment of coming up short in Jamaica was severe, Schultz said. “We had huge aspirations. We actually believed we could’ve won the entire World Cup,” she said. “And I still believe we were the best team there, but Mexico absolutely beat us fair and square.”
Playing soccer at such an elite level has caused Schultz to miss about a month of classes already this school year, and kept her from playing in all but one game for the Warriors girls soccer team in the recently completed season. She travels with a computer and school books, “and when you get a day off, and if you’re not eating, you’re studying as much as you can,” she said.
“Academics for us is a non-negotiable,” Brian Schultz said. “But at the same time, you never expect to have an opportunity to go play for the national team. It’s not like you could pass on something like that. So they set the schedule, and then we try to meet the expectations of the school and the expectations of the soccer program … and try to balance them both.”
For Maddy Schultz, the goal is a chance to play college soccer, and then perhaps to be a member of the U.S. national team in World Cups and at the Olympics.
“What I’ve been able to do so far is great, but there’s so much more to do,” she said. “So when I think of what I have ahead of me, of course I think I’m going to climb that mountain. And with the path I’m on … why not me?”
Playing in a World Cup or in the Olympics “would top it all off,” she said. “From what I hear, it’s the hardest journey you’ll ever make. But I’m absolutely shooting to be that player someday. That’s definitely the dream.”