The narrative of women in sports often finds itself relegated to the sidelines. It is our mission to change that, to amplify their accomplishments and to weave a tapestry of stories that inspire and empower. Our weekly column Latin Women in Sports seeks to applaud their triumphs, break down barriers, and champion the idea that in sports, as in life, every voice deserves to be heard.

Sam Meza, Seattle Reign
Sam Meza was selected by the Seattle Reign with the 17th overall pick in the second round of the 2024 NWSL Draft Via Jane Gershovich, Seattle Reign FC Communications

SEATTLE - Just a few months after hearing her name called at the 2024 NWSL Draft, midfielder Sam Meza is living the dream of being a professional soccer player, one that not always seemed possible.

In an interview with The Latin Times, Meza talked about her journey, challenges and experiences as a Latina striving to get into the world of professional sport.

Born and raised in Texas to Mexican parents, soccer has always been part of Meza's DNA. She started playing the sport at a very young age, influenced by her parents, and hasn't really stopped ever since.

"On the weekends our family would watch Liga MX games. I was always surrounded by it, me and my cousins would play in the front of my grandma's house and that's when my mom saw I enjoyed it and put me on a team.

Despite loving the game, Meza remembers she struggled at first due to her introverted personality. "I was a pretty shy kid, I was very in my shell," she said. "As much as I loved playing with my cousins, it was different when it came to playing in a team. One of my first memories of playing soccer is me running up and down the field crying because I didn't want to be there," Meza added.

That shy kid developed into a fearless midfielder with the help and support of her family, especially her mother. "My mom was a single mom and she saw I enjoyed playing and did everything she could to keep me in even when funds weren't necessarily available," she recalls. "Her will and her dedication to keep me in it is something I will forever be grateful."

Even though she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a professional soccer player, Meza didn't really know how to get there. "When you're little you don't really think about what can come out of it, and neither did my mom," she said. "For a lot of Hispanic girls, this isn't seen as something for you to do as your main job," she said. "Especially coming from a family that followed the traditional Hispanic way of thinking, where the man does most of the things and the woman sticks to her household duties. I honestly didn't know what soccer could bring,"

Sam Meza scored seven goals with UNC, including this game-winning goal in OT vs No.13 Arkansas in 2021

When asked about some of the struggles she faced in her path, Meza made a lot of emphasis on the impact that representation and exposure can have in the mind of little girls. "Growing up I didn't really watch women's soccer because it wasn't that big. I didn't know much about anything other than Liga MX," she said.

When talking about a player she idolized and used as reference, she picked Javier "Chicharito" Hernández. "That's the closest that resembles who I was as a player at that point in time. As I got older and got more educated on how big soccer actually was, I really looked up to the Mia Hamm's and Kristine Lilly's," she added.

Now in her first season as a player for the Seattle Reign FC, Meza hopes to serve as an example to all those little girls watching from home. "Growing up I didn't necessarily have somebody that I wanted to be like. For me that was a male figure, so it was kind of hard for me to think 'that could be me one day', she said. "There's not many Hispanic players that little girls can see and be like "she looks like me and that could be me one day", so I think the representation part of it is very important."

Sam Meza, Seattle Reign
Sam Meza played at the University of North Carolina between 2020-23, starting 71 of 72 games for the Tar Heels; she has played for the U.S. Women’s Youth National Teams since 2015 Via Jane Gershovich, Seattle Reign FC Communications

The 22-year-old is part of a generation that saw a huge revolution in how women's soccer is perceived in the United States. Now more than ever, women's soccer has become a priority all around the world, especially in Latin American countries. "It shows you that there's progress not just within the U.S. People are catching up and they are realizing that it truly is an universal game not only for men," she said. "If you think of Europe, the U.S. or Mexico, there's top teams in every single one of those leagues and the best thing is that it just keeps growing."

Proud of her Latin American roots, Meza is dedicated to contributing with her grain of sand to improving diversity across professional sports. "Latinos in general...we are just proud to be from where we are from. More than anything, for me, is the representation part of it. There aren't that many Latinos playing professional sports in general and the fact I get to represent that demographic makes me very proud."

Despite having represented the United States at different youth levels, Meza hasn't completely shut the door to representing Mexico at the senior level.

"Honestly, it was just where I kind of fell into place. I got attention from the U.S. at around 14-15 years old and been through their youth systems," Meza said. "Growing up, it is kind of a goal for everybody to be in the senior USWNT, when you're that young that's who you idolize. I loved my time with the youth teams but now, who knows? I am proud to be Mexican but it's about where the opportunity is given and wherever that is, I will take it."

Sam Meza, Seattle Reign
Meza is yet to make her NWSL debut for the Seattle Reign this season; she has been part of the squad in one of the team's four games this season Via Jane Gershovich, Seattle Reign FC Communications

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