Just in case you thought the USWNT was done making history you would have thought wrong. In a set of friendlies just before the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, they went and did it again when defender Carson Pickett became the first player with a limb difference to appear for the USWNT.
Pickett was born without a left forearm and went viral on social media when she “bumped” a young fan with the same condition in a photo from the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season while she was a member of the Orlando Pride.
Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear Pride jerseys. @Cars_Pickett16 | #BiggerThanSoccer pic.twitter.com/XwykT4s8Ug
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) April 15, 2019
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Pickett grew up outside of Jacksonville, Florida, where she grew up playing soccer and was named the Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year for the state in 2012. She stayed in Florida for her collegiate career, anchoring the Florida State Seminoles defense for four years. She was part of a defense that allowed zero goals during the 2014 NCAA tournament, which would lead to their first-ever national championship. She was initially drafted fourth overall by the then-Seattle (OL) Reign in 2016. She played for the NWSL’s Orlando Pride and in 2021 was traded to the North Carolina Courage. She also had brief stints overseas playing for the Brisbane Roar and Apollon Ladies.
Prior to her senior national team call-up and appearance in June she had been a member of the National team system since her U-17 days, having appeared for both the U-17 and U-23 teams.
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Pickett said her dad would tell her the above quote while she was growing up, and she never let her differences limit her. She was given a prosthetic as a kid but found it easier not to use it. Instead, she adapted to learning how to do things with one hand.
“I was never allowed to say ‘can’t’ or things like that,” Pickett said. “My parents have helped me the most. And growing up, they never let me get out of something. I never once said, ‘I can’t do it, I have just one arm.’ They always made me try it. If I got hurt, I got hurt or I cried, but they always made me try things even if I was a little scared or nervous.”
She’s taken her positive and creative attitude to Nike as well, using her platform to help raise limb difference awareness. She has partnered with them to make a cleat that makes it easier for players with limb differences. The new Phantom GT Academy FlyEase features a step-in feature where the heel folds down for easy entry, and instead of laces it has a wrap-around feature.
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While her June appearance in the friendlies against Colombia may have been her first, they likely won’t be her last.
As the U.S. Women’s National Team grows younger with players like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Kelley O’Hara heading towards what will likely be their last set of international tournaments, there could be an opening soon for Pickett to become more of a constant presence on the backline for the U.S. Now that the USWNT has qualified for both the 2023 Women’s World Cup and 2024 Olympics, there are still questions about who will be the top choice at left back, especially if Crystal Dunn has not returned to the team from her maternity leave by then.
Even if she doesn’t make another appearance for the USA National team, Pickett has made a huge impression and huge difference for young players with limb differences by showing them that they too can achieve on the highest levels, even if they have to make some adjustments to how they do it.