Kelly Smith believes England Women’s match against USA is an opportunity to highlight the progress the women’s game has made in this country since the advent of The FA WSL.
English football’s first semi-professional women’s league was launched in April 2011, and with the start of the fifth season imminent, Smith said she has witnessed enormous improvements in the quality of play over the last four years.
England’s record goalscorer spent more than a decade playing in the States, during two different spells, but came back to Arsenal, where she is now captain and coach, in 2012.
England v USA
A Women's International
8pm, Friday 13 February
stadium:mk, MK Dons FC
Tickets are priced £5 adults, £2.50 children
Call 0333 200 5343 or visit MK Dons site
And ahead of the testing friendly against USA in Milton Keynes on Friday 13 February, Smith is confident the Three Lions will be up to the task.
She said: “In terms of the actual football that is on offer, if an English player asked me 10, 15 years ago whether they should go to the States, I would have said ‘yes’, because the product was so much better.
“But not anymore. The game has changed so much in England over the last few years that I really do believe we are on a par with what is happening in America – and in some instances things are even better over here.
“Now I’d definitely encourage any player to stay in this country and fight for their place in an FA WSL team because they are going to improve massively for it.
“Hopefully we can show how much that gap has closed.”
Mark Sampson’s England qualified in style for this summer’s World Cup, winning all 10 matches, conceding only one goal in the process.
But a 3-0 defeat by Germany in November proves there is still work to do between now and June.
And Sampson’s squad will be tested to the limit once more when Jill Ellis brings her talented outfit to stadium:mk.
USA have won two World Cups, four Olympic gold medals and lost just three of their 24 matches in 2014.
Smith's England factfile
Debut: v Italy, 01/11/1995
Smith said: “USA are a top team who have been dominant in the women’s game for a number of years.
“We need to be playing these teams to see where we are at and see what we need to do in the build-up to Canada. It’s going to be another tough game, just like Germany was at Wembley.
“We learnt a lot from the Germany game and hopefully we will learn even more from this game.
"It’s important that we get things right before the World Cup and this is another opportunity for us to pit ourselves against the best there is.”
She continued: “I kind of grew up in America. I think I needed to live in a different environment and experience a different culture.
"It was great for me to develop as a player and as a character.
“That said, I’m delighted to be back in England because it’s a really exciting time for women’s football in this country.”