Brad Smith never thought he would ever set foot in America to play football, let alone compete for the biggest prize on the nation’s calendar.
But that is the fate within touching distance for the 25-year-old Caltex Socceroo, whose Seattle Sounders side host Toronto in the Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup Final next Monday morning (AEDT).
Featured image courtesy of Brad Smith on Instagram
Tim Cahill, Danny Allsopp, David Carney,Andy Rose and Bernie Ibini have all plied their trade in America’s top tier over the years, but Smith is set to become the first Australian to play in the Cup Final when the Sounders host Toronto in front of a raucous 70,000-strong crowd at CenturyLink Field.
“To get to the final is huge for me personally,” Smith told www.socceroos.com.au. “And it’s going to be crazy. The stadium sold out in a couple of days."
Smith has arguably found the form of his career at the Sounders, a destination that once appeared unlikely for the boy who was plucked from Sydney’s western suburbs to join Liverpool at just 14 years of age.
After finding first team opportunities limited at Anfield, and at fellow Premier League outfit Bournemouth, the jet-heeled left back joined Seattle on loan in August 2018.
He has since played regular minutes, making 25 appearances from which he has tallied five assists, and become a hugely popular figure among fans.
Smith lives in Kirkland, a small, surf town of approximately 90,000 people attractive to tourists and perfect for the Australian international’s family.
The weather is better than England, and it reminds him of Australia.
“It’s been a crazy football career for me,” he said. “I’ve been at big clubs and it’s difficult to get game time.
“Coming out to Seattle was a great move. The culture is different – in American sports the national anthem is played every game, there’s fireworks, big shows…it's just the way the American people do it.
“I’m playing every week, I’m enjoying it. And to get back into the Socceroos has been all I ever wanted.
"There's definitely a lot more players doing the switch now because the league is better than what people think, and it is getting some big names here.
"It's getting better. We have some big players, and more players will eventually keep coming out.”
Smith will return to Bournemouth, where he is contracted for the next six months, after Monday’s MLS Cup Final.
He is ‘definitely open’ to making the move permanent to Seattle.
But all eyes are on Monday’s clash with Toronto, and, if he earns selection, against Jordan in Australia’s next FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier against Jordan on November 15.
“I absolutely love playing for my country,” Smith said.
“To get back into the fold and start the last game means a lot to me. Arnie is a great coach and I love what he’s doing with the team.
“He’s a got a great culture going on and we’re looking to the future.”