By Rachel Sandler
While the U.S. will be vying for the Women’s World Cup Sunday against Japan, it’s future midfielder could waiting her turn in Lorton.
Andi Sullivan is on track to a promising future in the world’s most popular sport. At 18, she was the youngest player on the roster when the U-20 team won the CONCACAF tournament in 2014, and has already played in the U-20 World Cup as a starter and a captain. During her freshman year at Stanford University, she was named Freshman of the Year by Top Drawer Soccer, Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Pac-12 First Team and NCAA All-Pacific Region Second Team.
Sullivan is currently on the roster for the U-23 USWNT and she’s only 19. In a few years she might even be on television screens across the world representing the U.S. while doing what she loves— and that’s playing soccer.
When did you start playing soccer and why? Were you ever considering playing another sport when you were little?
I started playing soccer when I was about 4 years old. I have three older siblings who all played at some point, so they introduced me to it and then I became obsessed. I also swam and played basketball when I was younger. I liked doing them both but I was always devastated when I missed out on soccer, so I ended up doing only soccer pretty early on.
Did you always want to pursue playing soccer at the collegiate level and for the U.S? Was that always part of the plan?
I’ve said that I want to play for the U.S. for as long as I can remember. It’s been an unwavering dream. When I had just started playing, the ’99 World Cup team had shown the world what a big deal the U.S. Women could be, and I’ve always wanted to be a part of the legacy our country’s teams have left. Having that goal in the back of my mind has never failed to inspire me. College soccer didn’t become a part of the plan until I got into middle school, when my older teammates started getting recruited. Then I just tried to pick a school that suited me academically and athletically. I don’t think I could’ve gone wrong with my top options, but after my freshman year at Stanford, I know I picked the right place. I strongly believe it is one the greatest places in the world.
Do you want to play professionally or for the USWNT after college? If not, what are your post grad plans?
My ideal career would be to be on a World Cup and Olympic team. I would love to play professionally after college in whatever city will have me. Grad school could eventually become an option, but I haven’t decided what I am majoring in as an undergraduate or what I would like to pursue as a career other than soccer, so it’s a little hard to say.
How did you balance going to school, practicing, traveling, and playing during middle and high school? Is it harder or easier at Stanford?
Well, I had a ton of practice with time management throughout high school. Being a part of the U17 and U20 youth World Cup cycles meant I missed about one week of school every month. It was tough on me for sure. In high school, I just tried to stay on top of my work as much as possible. It helped that I went to a school that had great teachers and staff who were very understanding and supportive. The biggest key to succeeding there was just communication with my teachers — they gave me work ahead of time or while on the road and we made plans to make up tests and lessons when I returned. Their patience and dedication made it possible for me to grow as a player and student. I also had a great group of friends who always offered to send me notes or help me review when I returned. I am so thankful for my high school experiences because it prepared me for being completely on my own in college. I think the work and soccer schedule in college is a lot more challenging, but I still use a lot of the skills I learned in high school. You have a lot more flexibility in determining what works for you to handle the demands as a student-athlete in college.
How would you describe the soccer environment in Northern Virginia? Do you think it helped you become a better player?
I have a great time playing soccer in the DMV. Growing up, there were so many gifted players in the area so several teams became competitive rivals. However, when you grow up playing against people for years, they become more than just recognizable faces. Now when I come home for the summer, I get to play with fantastic players that pushed me through competition and I now see them as friends. Almost everyone I’ve met in the NoVA soccer environment has been welcoming and encouraging, especially at including me in extra training and offering to help me. I wouldn’t be the person I am without the influence of numerous coaches and players in this area.
Do you have any special plans to watch the Women’s World Cup final? How did you watch the rest of the tournament? Do you use it as a learning experience or do you watch it for pure entertainment?
I don’t have any big plans for the final right now, just to watch with a few friends. I’ve been watching games randomly, even having to record some. I’ve just been enjoying them, but there is something you can learn from every game. It’s been great to see how high the bar is set for the game and how many supporters are keeping up with the tournament, so I’m just trying to soak that in and appreciate it while it lasts.