Carson Pickett becomes USWNT’s first player with limb difference

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Carson Pickett on Tuesday became the first person with a limb difference to appear for the U.S. women’s national soccer team, starting on defense for the Americans in their 2-0 friendly win over Colombia in Sandy, Utah.

Pickett was born without a left hand and forearm.

Filling in for Emily Fox, whose 441 minutes played in 2022 are the second-most on the team, Pickett stayed on the field for all 90 minutes against Colombia. At 28, she is the oldest U.S. woman to make her debut for the national team since 30-year-old McCall Zerboni in 2017.

“Carson did very well in training for us in last week and with the management of minutes for Emily Fox that we had, we felt like Carson would be a good replacement, and I’m happy that she was able to perform well for 90 minutes,” U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski told ESPN.

Pickett plays professionally for the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League and has appeared with the U.S. under-17 and under-23 national teams. In 2019 while playing for the Orlando Pride, a photo and video of her “fist-bumping” a young fan with a similar limb difference went viral.

In 2020, she paired with Nike on a soccer cleat without laces that need to be tied.

“My parents have two hands and two arms and unfortunately they weren’t able to teach me how to tie my shoes,” Pickett told CBS Sports. “I can imagine that it does feel heartbreaking, looking at your daughter and trying to tie her shoes and it’s hard for you to be there for her. There were definitely times where I cried, and just couldn’t figure it out, and they kept pushing me. Tying my shoes was almost impossible, it did seem impossible, but I overcame it.”

The match against Colombia was the Americans’ final tuneup for the CONCACAF W Championship, which begins Monday in Mexico and serves as the qualifying tournament for both the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and the 2024 Olympic tournament in Paris. The top two finishers in each of the tournament’s two groups will qualify for the World Cup, while the overall winner will qualify for the Olympics.

The USWNT, which is considered a heavy favorite to win the tournament alongside Canada, begins group play on Monday against Haiti in San Nicolás, Mexico. Pickett will not be on the Americans’ roster, which is limited to 23 players as opposed to 26 for friendlies.

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