Clinical goalscorer? Check. Creative playmaker? Check. Superb role model? Check.

Voting is underway for the league's most valuable player and Sophia Smith is among the five nominees.

Smith is in talented company, joined by North Carolina's Debinha, San Diego's Naomi Girma and Alex Morgan, and Chicago's Mallory Pugh as finalists. But in our minds, there's only one clear winner.

Smith, who arrived in Portland as the #1 overall pick in the NWSL college draft, just wrapped up her second full regular season with the Thorns. She's been one of the most exciting players to watch this year: Clinical goalscorer? Check. Creative playmaker? Check. Superb role model? Check. At 22 years old, her speed, skill, and scoring ability make her a nightmare for opposing defenses, and she has the potential to change any time she steps on the field. (See, for instance, this goal she scored against KC in April, only minutes after subbing into the game.)

As you're casting your vote, here are five reasons why Sophia Smith deserves to be the league's MVP.


She's consistently lethal

In 2021, Smith bagged 7 goals in 21 games played, helping lift the Thorns win the Shield. This year, she doubled that haul—and in fewer matches played. Her 14 regular season goals this year broke the Thorns' regular season scoring record set by Lindsey Horan in 2018 and she's now one of only four Thorns players to reach double-digit goals in a single season.

Horan, who spent this season on loan with Olympique Lyonnaise in France, won the NWSL MVP award that year—the only time a Thorn has claimed that honor so far.

Smith also led the league in total shots (79) and shots on goal (49), a testament to her fearlessness, hunger, and work ethic.

She tied for the most non-penalty goals in the NWSL

Smith's 14 goals were one less than eventual Golden Boot winner Alex Morgan of the San Diego Wave, who scored 15 times in 2022.

But if we count the number of open-play, non-penalty goals scored, Smith and Debinha are tied at 11. Morgan scored from the spot five times this year, and Smith three times. Two of Smith's goals came from outside the box, like this long range rocket against the Orlando Pride in June:

She's just as lethal at the international level

Let's not forget the 11 goals Smith scored for the US Women's National Team this year, several of which stunned national audiences and set the internet aflame.

Take this sequence from July, where Smith assisted herself on a goal, touching a ball around a Jamaican defender and then calmly smashing it in with the outside of her right foot.

“She does have the potential to be one of the best players in the world,” USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski told reporters after a 4-0 drubbing of Nigeria in September, in which Smith scored a brace.

We can expect Smith to continue to be a major force on the international level as the US team prepares for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.


Smith is a playmaker

Smith had 4 assists in 2022, helping the Thorns amass 49 goals in 2022—the most goals scored by a team in the league. Her vision and passing are superb—she racked up 24 key passes—and she has a unique ability to find space for her teammates and to create scoring chances for them.

Despite just missing out on the Shield, the Thorns are still one of the favorites to win the NWSL Championship. If they're able to accomplish that feat—their playoff run begins with the semifinal game on October 23—Smith's contributions will have played an enormous role.


Smith is a role model

Sophia Smith is not only an outstanding player, she's also a leader, a role model, and an ambassador for the game of soccer. She is a strong advocate for gender equality in sport, and is actively involved in advocacy groups like the Black Women's Player Collective, alongside her teammate Crystal Dunn.

Portland fans honored her with the Supporter's Player of the Year Award at the end of the last regular season game—a well deserved honor both for her on-field accomplishments and her natural ability to connect with fans.

One such fan travelled more than 2,000 miles just to meet her outside of the stadium this summer: