The 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is less than 50 days out. United States women's national team fans are awaiting the official roster drop and for the games to start. Two-time World Cup champion Julie Ertz recently returned to play in April after an extended absence due to a lengthy recovery from an MCL sprain and maternity leave, and she sat down with CBS Sports to chat about preparing for another World Cup, her latest venture with Abbott and the Real Madrid Foundation.
The build-up to a potential third World Cup looks and feels different for Ertz. It's included a shorter timeline, a new NWSL club after eight years in Chicago, and balancing motherhood. It's been a long road back to playing. Despite the stark contrast in preparations for this World Cup, three constants for Ertz have been family, faith, and an active role in non-profit work.
"My timeline for sure. I mean, that's an obvious one I think," said Ertz on her biggest difference leading up to another World Cup.
"You never know how many World Cups you're gonna get for sure. My first one in 2015, and being so young, and enjoying that process. Same with 2019. I'm so grateful to have the experience ... I think that just comes with kind of being a veteran in general and knowing that, but at the same time, I think each one means something very different. Just where you are in the time of your life.
"Just to be in the talks of possibly making that [roster] I think my drive is stronger. Which is funny to say. I don't know how it's even stronger than before, but I just think my appreciation for the sport is different."
Her return to the pitch dominated headlines during the national teams' international window in April. It was the final camp for the team ahead of the World Cup roster being announced, and while the short build-up to the tournament wasn't lost on Ertz, she was happy to have the headline over. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski and his staff emphasized players maintaining form through club play, and Ertz quickly signed with Angel City FC after April camps.
After spending eight seasons with the Red Stars in Chicago, the franchise traded her rights to Los Angeles in exchange for expansion roster protection. Though she never featured for Angel City due to maternity leave and was a free agent for 2023, Ertz signed a one-year deal with the club. She's been inspired by the changes in the league from when she first started to her current return after two years. She's started four games over five appearances and scored a goal with her new club to date.
"It's been great. I love just every day being in that environment of the grind again and increasing my soccer training and playing games," Ertz said.
"I think [the growth] it's pretty incredible. My first home game it was sold out, that's not always been common in my career. So I think just to see that, and the growth of it, and where it's been, is tremendous. And every game that we've played, every team kind of plays a different structure.
"So, I feel like the actual tactical piece of the NWSL has really changed versus maybe before, pretty much everyone was playing a similar shape. Now you're getting thrown different opponent tactics and that's obviously fun and great for me as I'm trying to grow each game. it's been a delight to see the growth of the sport."
She specifically mentions giving birth to her son Madden and motherhood as the catalyst for a different perspective on life and career in general. During the prime of their careers, she and her husband Zach Ertz launched the Ertz Foundation in 2018 with an emphasis on three pillars of service -- family, education, and youth sports in their respective local markets at the time in Philadelphia and Chicago. The foundation has since expanded its reach, and even when she wasn't playing soccer, her non-profit efforts continued.
She recently joined a new campaign, "Beat Malnutrition" with Abbott and the Real Madrid Foundation. It's a sustained collaboration urging communities to work together to reduce malnutrition. The campaign will supply malnutrition screening tools to local communities and provide funding for malnutrition programs. She cites the Ertz Foundation's work with youth and education as a good fit for her to join the campaign.
"With my foundation, also working with youth, I think the next generation is so important. I'm a huge believer that people need people. So it was just kind of a natural process for us and it's been super incredible for Zach and I," Ertz said.
I’ve proudly teamed up with @AbbottNews and @Fun_RealMadrid to bring attention to the issue of childhood malnutrition & the importance of early screening. I’m wearing this armband to raise awareness - together we can Beat Malnutrition. Visit https://t.co/yUGqR23VcG for info. #Ad pic.twitter.com/d3YsA1JmBJ— Julie Ertz (@julieertz) May 31, 2023
"As a new mom, it puts a different perspective around the awareness of childhood malnutrition. One in three people around the world are malnourished. That's pretty alarming, and I think anytime you can raise awareness for such an important cause, I was excited to jump on into their mission."
Navigating an evolved league and motherhood are just two key differences in her preparation ahead of another tournament. She admits that routine is something she can hold onto too much. It helps keep the focus on a goal, in this case making a World Cup roster, but it's the things in between a routine that keep her grounded.
"A lot of it is me just being in connection with my family. I feel like soccer has been such a part of my life, which has been a part of my family life. So as long as I keep my perspective right with family, I think that's the one routine that I'll continue," she said.
Playing her way back into form and sharpening her skills in the midfield are the physical things she's doing to make sure she's prepared for the upcoming World Cup, but faith and family are the mental components of her game.
"I think it just allows me to stay consistent in life. It just allows me to go through the processes of the up and down and also not to stay with the ups and downs. I can stay pretty much the same," she said. "Every year I have to continue and work on it. It's not something like 'Oh, yeah, I'm the most faithful.' It's constantly working on it.
"Constantly working on me has allowed me to kind of stay focused and hopefully grounded. I think that's just what has to happen, especially in athletics just because there are so many adversities in your career. For me, it's allowed me to kind of focus on the now, because coming back from pregnancy, I didn't know what my journey was going to be, and I also didn't want to be overwhelmed by it. So I think just trusting in that process of what's good for me and what's available.
"There were so many moving parts in the past year. With the joy of having Madden, it's been incredible, but there were also some really tough times though. Obviously, everyone sees what's on the outside but behind the scenes navigating it, I think I've learned how to add into that trust factor and just see the beauty of kind of how it can come together. Enjoying the process of just trying to be a better human and learn and grow. So yeah, I think [faith] has been a huge, if not the biggest factor, for me in my career."