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The US Women’s National Team honors late teammate Katie Meyer by dedicating her goals at the World Cup

Katie Meyer playing for Stanford in San Jose, California, in December 2019 (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group/AP)

Katie Meyer playing for Stanford in San Jose, California, in December 2019 (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group/AP)

The US Women’s National Team (USWNT) kicked off their Women’s World Cup with a 3-0 win over Vietnam in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday 22 July. And one of the team’s forwards took the moment to remember an absent friend.

After striker Sophia Smith had slammed home her second goal of the game, she put her fingers to her lips and made a zipping motion across her mouth in honor of former Stanford Cardinal teammate Katie Meyer, whose iconic celebration it was.

Meyer had gone viral after making precisely that gesture when the college side secured the 2019 NCAA College Cup with a penalty shootout win in which she was instrumental but tragically died on March 1, 2022, aged just 22, after taking her own life.

“The last couple days are like a parent’s worst nightmare and you don’t wake up from it. So it’s just horrible,” her mother Gina Meyer told NBC News in the immediate aftermath of that tragedy.

Originally from Burbank, California, Meyer was an accomplished goalkeeper who made 50 appearances for Stanford Cardinal at the college level and captained the side, having previously impressed at the youth level playing for Newbury Park Panthers, Eagles Soccer Club and Real So Cal between 2014 and 2018.

She had enrolled at the prestigious Stanford University in 2019 and was pursuing a degree in international relations with a minor in history, reportedly hoping to attend Stanford Law School after graduating.

Both Smith and USWNT defender Naomi Girma were close friends of Smith at university, played alongside her for the Cardinal and the trio frequently featured in each others’ Instagram posts, with Smith writing movingly in one from January 2020 of her excitement at playing with Meyer: “I remember counting down the days until I would get to play with you.

“Thank you for fighting with me when things went wrong, and for celebrating with me when things went right. I love you so much and I’m so insanely proud we came out on top this year because of what it meant to both of us.”

Speaking after the Vietnam game, Smith told reporters: “That was for Katie. Nai and I talked about it before the game. We were like, ‘What can we do for Katie?’ It was pretty iconic what she did in the College Cup, and we just want to honor her in every way.”

Girma recently published a personal essay in The Players Tribune in honor of Meyer in which she wrote: “There are friends, and then there are true friends. Katie Meyer was a true friend, in every sense of the word.”

Since Meyer’s passing, Smith and Girma have used their increasingly elevated platform to raise awareness of the importance of psychological well-being, partnering with Common Goal to create a mental health initiative in Meyer’s memory.

“With a lot of players, including us, speaking out on mental health, we see this as an opportunity to shed light on a lot of things that are important to us,” Girma said.

“That’s been something that’s been at the core of this team for so long and for us to come in now and carry on that legacy is something that’s really important to us.

“It’s something that’s really important to me and Soph.”

Girma has said she also remembers Katie Meyer by wearing a wristband with the initials “KM” emblazoned in it whenever she takes to the pitch, ensuring her friend is never far from her thoughts, even mid-match.