Meet Mallory Pugh, the Future of the United States Women's National Team

Sean Swaby@seanswabyUK Staff WriterJuly 27, 2015

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 16:  Makenzy Doniak of the United States celebrates with Mallory Pugh after scoring the opening goal during the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Canada 2014 Quarter Final match between Korea DPR and the United States at the National Soccer Stadium on August 16, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Getty

Mallory Pugh is the No. 1-ranked prospect for her class in a country that just won the planet's most coveted trophy in its most popular sport.

In a matter of years, the Highlands Ranch, Colorado, native will be expected to help lead the United States women's national team to gold medals and potentially another World Cup. Such is the USWNT's recent run of success.

Pugh is also just 17 and hasn't yet entered her senior year of high school.

No pressure.

But given her affinity for soccer, it's hardly surprising that she's become so successful at it.

"Honestly, I don't really have any other hobbies," Pugh told Bleacher Report. "I mean...I wish I could play the piano."

"I remember when she was three or four years old, she had a 13", pink Hello Kitty TV in her room," her father, Horace Pugh, told Joe Nguyen of the Denver Post last year. "And we would walk in, and she would sit there watching soccer on Telemundo."

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 16:  Makenzy Doniak of the United States celebrates with Mallory Pugh after scoring the opening goal during the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Canada 2014 Quarter Final match between Korea DPR and the United States at the National Soccer
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Pugh has become a stalwart as part of the national setup since joining the U-14 team at age 13.

Since then, she helped her high school (Mountain Vista) to a state title as a freshman in 2013, and this year, her talent on the pitch earned her Girls Soccer Player of the Year honors from Gatorade along with a national Athlete of the Year nomination.

Piling up the accolades since a young age and dealing with being the next big thing has left the UCLA-bound forward unfazed and humble.

"It's a great honor more than anything," she said. "Just to be that person that hopefully people will look up to is exciting, and it pushes me even with all the pressure."

The pressure, it seems, will only continue to rise.

Not only did the women capture the nation's hearts with their World Cup triumph, but it caught its attention, too: The tournament's final shattered viewership records, according to Fox (h/t NPR).

Exciting times for women's soccer in the United States and exciting times for one of the country's most touted prospects.

"It was great to see how all their hard work paid off for them, as all of us younger players look up to them so much," said Pugh, who cites captain Carli Lloyd as her playing idol for her technical and smart style of play. "It was such a great experience for them and to spread the word on such a great sport and show the USA mentality."

As for the national team, hopes will be high for Pugh's impact on the side.

In just 10 games for her high school—the same school her older sister Bri attended prior to playing soccer at Oregon—she racked up 24 goals and 12 assists last season.

And just last month, she showed talent beyond her years, scoring on a jaw-dropping end-to-end run against Brazil in an U-20 match.

It's better seen than said:

Typically stoic, she described it to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post in cavalier fashion: "I just kind of took the ball up the field."

Except the whole part about the clinical finish, the calm she showed inside the 18-yard box, the eluding multiple defenders and...

"Normally, as a dad, I'm jumping up and down," Horace Pugh said, per the same Post article. "But I was just in awe—did she just do what I thought she did? That's not supposed to happen...

"Her mom and I actually say she's a little bit too humble."

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 16:  Mallory Pugh of the United States in action during the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Canada 2014 Quarter Final match between Korea DPR and the United States at the National Soccer Stadium on August 16, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Can
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

But such is life for Pugh—just one boot in front of the other and one (more) accolade at a time.

When asked where she could see herself career-wise in a few years' time, in a perfect world, she who has all the answers on the pitch nearly drew a blank.

"I just hope to do well at UCLA," she said. "And if it all works out, hopefully I can keep climbing the ladder."

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Pugh's prospect ranking courtesy of TopDrawerSoccer.com (via the Post).

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