Six years after leaving Provo for the National Women’s Soccer League, Ashley Hatch is working toward the next goal of her professional career: a roster spot on the U.S. World Cup team.

Hatch has played for the U.S. women’s national soccer team several times during the last seven years and is waiting to find out if she’s been selected for the 23-player roster that will represent the U.S. in New Zealand and Australia in July.

That news will come by July 10, a mere 10 days before the tournament starts, when national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski must release his final roster.

The former BYU star has been a valuable backup at forward for Alex Morgan, a two-time World Cup champion and the team’s fifth all-time leading scorer, and Hatch has made her case for a roster spot as a proven goalscorer in the NWSL.

Drafted by the North Carolina Courage as the second overall pick in 2017, Hatch was traded to the Washington Spirit in 2018 where she won both the NWSL championship and the league’s Golden Boot award in 2021, which goes to the league’s leading scorer.

This season, she is currently tied with national team teammates Morgan, Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams as the league’s leading scorer with five goals through nine games.

Whether she is named to the roster will come down to how much depth the U.S. wants at the midfielder and forward positions as the team defends its World Cup crown.

As Hatch chases her dream of playing in a World Cup, she continues to lean on her faith as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even if her Sundays during the season play out differently than they do for most members of the faith.

Related
Former BYU star Ashley Hatch made history over the weekend
Former BYU soccer star Ashley Hatch wins ESPY

She has found creative ways to prioritize her faith, whether that be through Monday “Sunday School” lessons with her husband, teammate Bible study nights or inviting her teammates to the Washington D.C. Temple open house.

The Deseret News recently caught up with Hatch to discuss the World Cup, her faith and her memories of BYU.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Deseret News: You have several national team caps under your belt, and you’re the leading scorer in the NWSL. Do you feel like you deserve to be on the World Cup roster?

Ashley Hatch: Yeah, I would definitely say that I’ve worked really hard to put myself in the opportunity to make the roster, so I’m hopeful that the coaches think that as well.

DN: What would it mean to you to be on that roster and to play in a World Cup?

AH: It would mean so much to me to be able to make the World Cup roster and be a part of the team that goes to Australia and New Zealand. It would probably be one of the proudest moments in my career, making that team — something that I’ve worked a really long time for, hoped for and dreamed of.

DN: What have you been doing to earn a World Cup roster spot?

AH: From I think Day 1 that I ever got the opportunity to play for the national team, whether it was this coach or the previous coach, I’ve been told that playing well in the (NWSL) is the best way to give yourself the best opportunity to play on the national team. So I’ve worked really hard on making sure that I perform well with the Spirit or whatever club team I’m playing for in this league and then also when I’m in the national team environment, just working really hard, learning, listening and making sure that I play whatever role I’ve (been) asked to the best of my ability.

DN: If you don’t make the roster, what’s your next step?

AH: That’s a good question. I most likely (will) just keep working hard with the Spirit. Obviously keep working and having a good season, working towards a championship and just continuing to find ways to improve as an individual and set myself up to make the next Olympic roster.

DN: You’re a Golden Boot winner, and you’re already an NWSL champion. What other goals do you have left to accomplish?

AH: I still have lots of goals that I’d like to accomplish. Winning another NWSL championship is definitely one of those. Making and winning a World Cup is probably at the top of the list on the highest mountain there is, but that’s one that I’m really hoping to have an opportunity to get at.

DN: The Utah Royals are returning this next season. How do you feel about Utah having an NWSL team again?

AH: I’m really excited. My husband’s from Utah. My family’s from Arizona. So I know that we’ll have a lot of family at those games, and it’s always fun to be able to go back to Utah because it feels a little bit like home since I went to BYU. I’m just really excited.

DN: Speaking of BYU, do you follow your old team a whole lot?

AH: Yeah, I do. Thanks to Instagram, I’m always following what they’re doing. I know they just went on an international trip that looked like a lot of fun, and this season is going to be their first season in the Big 12. I’m excited for them to make that jump. Anytime I’m in Utah, I always try and stop by and say hi or at least check in with coach (Jennifer) Rockwood and see how they’re doing.

DN: Do you have any advice for those players making the jump to the Big 12?

AH: I would just say embrace the challenge. Embrace the opportunity as individuals and as a team. I think it’s really cool that they’re going to be able to play against other teams, better competition. I think it only makes them better, so I think just my advice to them would be go into this season with that mindset of the opportunity to get better.

DN: What is your favorite memory from playing at BYU?

AH: That’s a hard one because there’s so many. I really enjoyed playing at BYU. I would probably have to say playing with my sister (Brianna Hatch). Being able to play at the collegiate level together was something that we always talked about, that we dreamed about growing up.

Then being able to just play every home game on South Field was a lot of fun. Our fans are great, and all the relationships that I made with teammates is also something that I will always cherish. I still check in with some of my teammates every once in a while. It’s kind of fun to see where everyone’s at.

DN: What role has faith played in your life and your playing career?

AH: My faith has played a huge role. I am very thankful to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and just having that relationship with my Heavenly Father, has helped me in times when I’m either super lonely or I have a tough decision to make.

This job requires a lot of traveling and being away from family, and so being able to have my faith to lean on and just have that comfort has been huge for me throughout my career. It’s also helped me to realize that there’s a bigger purpose to life than just soccer, and so it’s helped me stay grounded and humble.

DN: How do you balance your faith with all the demands of the season?

AH: Yeah, it can be difficult, especially when church has played a really important role in my life. We travel a lot on Sundays or even play on Sundays, and so when I’m home, I do my best to go to my home ward or congregation, which is always very comforting.

But when I’m not (home), my husband and I have been pretty good at taking turns and giving each other a Sunday lesson. Whether it’s actually on Sunday or it’s when I get back from my travels on a Monday or Tuesday, I really cherish that time, and I feel like we both grow as individuals on studying gospel topics or (a) good devotional or conference talk. Then also just staying consistent with my own praying and scripture study.

I have the “Come Follow Me” app, which I love, and I do every single day. I feel like that always gives me a small dose of gospel light every time. I usually do it before I go to bed with my husband, if we’re apart we’ll do it over FaceTime or just do it by ourselves.

DN: If you make the World Cup roster, which fingers-crossed you do, how are you going to make sure you keep your faith at the forefront in Australia and New Zealand?

AH: When we were in New Zealand earlier this year, for our trial run to see where our hotel would be and how things operate and then also to get a game or two in against New Zealand, we were there for two weeks, and I looked to see if there was a local church nearby. There was, so I Ubered to one. Unfortunately, the time on the LDS tools was wrong — they probably hadn’t changed it for years — but I still went and the missionaries were kind to give me the sacrament, which I really appreciated.

So just to be able to know that there’s a church building close by and hopefully if there’s ever downtime on a Sunday to either go to church, if not then (I’ll) just continue to do the things that I’m doing now on a daily basis of just reading my scriptures (and) studying with my husband.

DN: You attended the Washington D.C. Temple open house with some of your teammates. What advice do you have for members of the church about sharing the gospel with their friends and co-workers?

AH: For me, it’s been the easiest to share it when I’m living it and enjoying it and it’s just part of my life. You don’t have to force the opportunities, but I’m always prayerful about opportunities to have natural and organic conversations about my faith and my belief. So I would just say always have an open heart and open mind to have those opportunities.

DN: What advice would you give to young soccer players?

AH: The biggest piece of advice that I would give to young soccer players is to believe in themselves. I think that’s something that doesn’t sometimes come naturally, especially to female soccer players. Sometimes we look for other external people or opinions to give us validation and confidence, but there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs throughout life.

There’s going to be a lot of people who’ll maybe doubt you, but at the end of the day, the only person that you have to live with for the rest of your life is yourself. If you have that ultimate belief in yourself, it’ll help you get through the hard times and also help you enjoy and experience fully the good times. So I’d say make sure you always have that undeniable belief in yourself.

Washington Spirit forward and former BYU star Ashley Hatch takes a corner kick during an NWSL soccer match against the San Diego Wave on Saturday, May 6, 2023, in Washington. Hatch is hoping to earn a roster spot on this year’s U.S. World Cup team. | Nathan Howard, Associated Press