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Former kindergarten teammates debut on US women's national soccer team together

Sophia Smith and Jaelin Howell are two of the youngest members on the U.S. women’s national soccer team, but they’ve been teammates since the old days.
/ Source: TODAY

Most soccer fans have never heard of the Timnath Twisters, but that aughts-era elementary school team from Colorado produced a couple of star players that are making headlines for the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) now.

Former kindergarten teammates Sophia Smith and Jaelin Howell are together again, playing for the defending world champs.

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Sophia Smith is defended by Jaelin Howell during practice in Commerce City, Colorado.Brad Smith / ISI Photos via Getty Images

Last week, Smith, 20, and Howell, 21, hit the pitch and made their team debut for the USWNT in an exhibition game against Netherlands, helping the team secure a 2-0 victory. Then, a few days later, the team tweeted out what might just be the cutest example of 2020’s “how it started, how it’s going” meme.

On the “started” side of the tweet, the teammates can be seen approximately 15 years ago, in their Twisters days, looking like a couple of serious athletes. On the other side, the pair can be seen on the field for the USWNT, all smiles this time, as they’re undeniably serious athletes.

And other sports stars took notice!

Retired soccer player, coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach, replied to the then-and-now tweet with a message of her own, writing, “Well @jaehowell18 and @sophsssmith this is the cutest thing ever!!! Very cool moment. All the feels right here.”

And Smith, who’s now the U.S. team’s youngest player — and only player born in the 2000s — saw that tweet and responded with a pic of her own, another childhood shot. But in this one, she could be seen standing next to her soccer hero, Wambach.

“Well @AbbyWambach, you were a big reason this moment happened for me,” she wrote. “You inspired me to follow my dreams. thank you.”

As for Howell, she, too, was taken aback by Wambach’s post.

“I’ll always remember as a young girl going crazy watching you score the goal against Brazil in the 2011 World Cup!” she tweeted. “Thank you for being the inspiration for our generation!!”

And that wasn’t the end of the mutual appreciation on Twitter. Wambach then proved that the circle of inspiration is still going strong by sharing a text message she received from her daughter Tish. Wambach became a stepmom to three children in 2017 when she married writer Glennon Doyle.

“This is from my 14 year old daughter Tish! You are inspiring the next generation @sophsssmith keep it going,” read the caption alongside a grab of the text message. In it, Tish wrote, “SOPHIA SMITH TWEETED YOU. … i love her.”

Mom responded to the teen, adding of Smith, “She is one of the next stars of our national team and I couldn’t be more proud and happy to see her in red white and blue. Maybe one day she will take a picture with you and then you can post that picture when you get older?!!! So cool.”

It really is, and it shows the impact that U.S. women’s soccer has on young players and players-to-be. But the USWNT is hoping to score more than that worthy win for the sport.

Last year, the USWNT sued the U.S. Soccer Federation over alleged institutionalized gender discrimination, and this week, the parties settled in regards to team travel, accommodations and professional support. However, the World Cup winners' pursuit of equal pay in line with the U.S. men’s team wasn’t part of that settlement.

In May, a judge ruled that in order for the gender discrimination suit to go forward, the issue of pay had to be removed from it.