If you think USWNT fans are passionate, you should catch Sydney Leroux at a youth soccer game.
"Me being on the sidelines, I'm like, 'Go get the ball! Go get the ball!'" the World Cup winner told E! News of watching 5-year-old son Cassius play. While she presumably stops short of throwing out a "Let's f--king go!", she's definitely not a passive fan.
"Last weekend, he had his first game and he was playing defense and I'm like, 'Cassius, what are you doing? Go forward! Go score a goal!'" Leroux admitted. "You know, I'm not used to defense. So of course I want him to be a forward like Mommy."
For now, though, the gold medal-winning striker is just thrilled to see him on the pitch. While her 2-year-old daughter Roux is more into Frozen than footwork ("Coordination is not her forte," acknowledged Leroux), her eldest "just found the love for soccer this year and it's been amazing to watch," she shared. "I mean, I get just as excited watching him score goals as I do when I score goals."
So pack up the SUV and hand her some orange slices. "I absolutely love it," she said of her role as cheerleader. "I get to be a soccer mom in all of the ways, so it's really cool."
Plus she's got a whole team to back her up.
"We went from, like, one to four within, you know, a year and a half," she said of the Orlando Pride's mom squad, which now includes Alex Morgan and her 18-month-old daughter Charlie along with Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris and their 9-month-old daughter Sloane. "So it's been really fun to parent with some of my really close friends. It's awesome. I mean, we get to bring our kids on the road and they play and we do birthday parties together, so we've had a really good time this season."
Together they've teamed up with GoGo squeeZ, the brand behind the fruit-, veggie- and plant-based pouches she makes sure to tote everywhere ("The kids grab them every single chance they get"), to launch their Fun Comes First program focused on improving the quality of youth sports by placing the emphasis on the love of the game.
Though Leroux has been a standout on the pitch since her teens, "No one was forcing me to do anything," she insisted of her meteoric rise. "It was just because I got to be with my friends and I loved playing and I had fun doing it."
When she was younger, "I just don't remember it being as serious," she continued. With some of the stories she hears now about youth soccer and a win-at-all-costs mindset, "I don't know if I would have done what I've done so far because I did it out of sheer joy and fun and for the love of the game. And I just don't want that to be lost on kids because they want to, you know, be the best. I think it starts with having fun first and then you go from there."
Because it was that passion that took her from a spot as the youngest member on the Vancouver Whitecaps in her native British Columbia to her career at UCLA to landing a spot on the U.S. women's national soccer team.
All the while mom Sandi Leroux, who played third base for Canada's national softball team, cheered her on. "I think that my mom always wanted me to have fun. I mean, my mom is very competitive, which I am very competitive," she admitted. "But I also think that she instilled that part of the game with me at a very young age and I still feel that. Like, I still have so much fun playing soccer and I'm 31 years old."
Though, now, if she's being honest, her most treasured moments come after the final whistle is blown. That's when Cassius and Roux—in their "Mommy" jerseys—come flooding down from the stands with the rest of the Pride's second generation.
"That's probably actually my favorite part now of my games is having the kids run out on the field and come and give me a big, sweaty hug," Leroux shared. "I've always dreamed about being able to have a baby and come back and play. And then I had two."
Now getting to walk around the stadium with her kids brings her back to the days of dominating her mom's softball diamond.
"She would bring me to her games and I would be out on the field doing crazy stuff while she was playing," she reflected, "and now it's like I see that in my own kids. And it's just, like, a full circle moment for me because I remember what I was like and now I see that in Cassius and in Roux. So it's amazing. And I love that they can watch their mom do something that she loves to do and they can see that I have fun even when we lose."
Less than three years apart, the two fight like, well, siblings ("I have to get two of everything," she reveals), but when they're not squabbling, as she put it in a recent Instagram post, "they're actually quite sweet."
Take this anecdote from a recent Disney outing: "They're obsessed with Frozen," explained the athlete. "And so my daughter loves Elsa and my son loves Elsa as well." Leroux initially attempted to find different costumes for them each to put on, "But, of course, there was no Kristoff or Olaf or anything," she recalled. "And so my daughter got the Elsa costume and my son felt left out, so he had to get the Elsa costume as well. That's just how our little family works."
As they venture off into the unknown, she admittedly, has her fingers crossed that they'll fall as hard for soccer as she has. But that's not the ultimate goal.
Between her and their father, Toronto FC forward Dom Dwyer, "Of course everyone always asks like, 'Oh, are your kids going to play soccer?'" Leroux shared. "And, you know, of course I want them to, but the most important thing is that they have fun and that they're passionate about something. So I don't really necessarily care if it's soccer, but I want them to have fun and enjoy what they're doing always."