MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Frances Silva enjoyed a stellar senior year for the West Virginia University women’s soccer team, leading the Big 12 Conference in goals scored and assists while guiding the Mountaineers to regular-season and tournament titles.
The Overland Park, Kansas native was also named as the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and was a semi-finalist for the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy awarded to college soccer’s best player.
Silva’s rise is about to make life hectic for the 21-year-old post-graduate student. She travels to Spain with the United States Under-23 national team later this month for the annual La Manga tournament before reporting for pre-season training that will determine whether she secures a professional contract with F.C. Kansas City.
Two-time Olympic gold medal winners Lauren Holiday (nee Cheney) and Amy Rodriguez will be competing with Silva for playing time at the National Women’s Soccer League franchise. That represents a major step up from the collegiate level, and a challenge that Silva cannot wait to tackle.
“It’s exciting,” Silva told The Soccer Observer. “I’m just going to go in, absorb as much as I can from them and hopefully find a spot.”
Silva has spent the past four years working toward a career in sport, whether on the field or on the other side of the touchline. She earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism last year and is currently studying for a master’s degree in sport management. She remains on course to graduate this summer despite her mounting distractions.
“My teachers have been really good about things,” Silva said. “They’re letting me finish my projects from home, so that’s one thing less for me to worry about.”
Silva played in every WVU game since joining the program in 2010, scoring 38 goals in 89 appearances and collecting a haul of team trophies and individual accolades. The staging of last November’s Big 12 championship at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City brought Silva directly under the gaze of her hometown team’s coaching staff. Silva’s three goals in three games steered the Mountaineers to the title.
F.C. Kansas City invited Silva into a training camp during the holiday season, and she was asked to attend the NWSL’s college draft in Philadelphia last month.
“It’s nerve-wracking when you’re waiting for your name to be called,” Silva said. “Nobody wants to be that person who’s sitting there the whole time and doesn’t get picked.”
Silva sat through the first two rounds watching players like Crystal Dunn, Kealia Ohai and Maya Hayes being selected. Her turn to face the cameras arrived when Kansas City selected her with the first pick of the third round, 19th overall. Now Silva has the chance to shine alongside some of those experienced youth national team forwards during the La Manga camp.
“Frances belongs there,” said U.S. U-23 and University of Virginia head coach Steve Swanson in a telephone interview. “She’s had a tremendous year playing in a very good team in a very good conference.”
Swanson’s Virginia faced the Mountaineers during Silva’s freshman and sophomore seasons, losing 1-0 in Morgantown before eking out a 2-1 win in Charlottesville.
“I always thought Frances was a tremendous athlete with good feet,” Swanson said. “From what I’ve heard and seen on video, she’s really taken a jump to another level.”
The return of a professional women’s league in North America will help to further Silva’s growth and development, Swanson said. Another jump to the highest level of the women’s game would not surprise WVU head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown.
“Frances has that technical ability and decision-making that really separates her,” Izzo-Brown told The Soccer Observer.
“She has the pieces to get to the full national team.”
*F.C. Kansas City did not respond to The Soccer Observer’s requests to interview head coach Vlatko Andonovski or technical director Huw Williams.
Sept. 23, 2013 — WVU’s Brand Of Soccer Returns Ahead Of Big 12 Kick-Off
Oct. 18, 2012 — WVU’s Silva Making Headlines On And Off The Field