A sitdown with new Union sideline reporter Heather Mitts

The former U.S. national teamer talks retirement, TV and Philly

Heather Mitts Union

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

When Heather Mitts announced her retirement women’s soccer professionally earlier this month, she did so with no regrets.

Then again, how could she have any?

Mitts, 34, will arguably go down as one of the best to ever play, garnering 137 appearances for the U.S. women’s national team – playing in a World Cup and collecting and three Olympic medals.

Now, Mitts has moved on, but her work continues in soccer with the broadcast team of the Philadelphia Union as a sideline reporter. It’s not her first foray into broadcasting. Mitts served as a college football sideline reporter for ESPN in 2005 and was a part of the network’s panel in the 2003 and 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cups serving as a sideline analyst. Her first day with the Union was possibly one of the worst of the year weather wise as she withstood freezing rain, whipping winds and snow flurries during the Union’s 1-0 win over New England on March 16.

Interested in her thoughts, philadelphiaunion.com caught up with Mitts to pick her brain on her new career and if Chester waterfront weather scared her off.

We can tell you right now, the answer to that question is no.

philadelphiaunion.com: What made you decide to continue a career in soccer and what was so intriguing about continuing your career here in Philadelphia with the Union?

Heather Mitts: I was actually approached by the Union while I was still playing and asked if I had any interest. I did know that when I was done [playing] that I wanted to go into some kind of a broadcasting role and it just seemed like a good fit now that I am living in the Philadelphia area to be still involved in soccer.

PU.com: How hard was it for you to come to the decision that you’d no longer play?

HM: All along I knew I wanted to play in one last Olympics and by no means did I think I had it in me to play in another World Cup. I’ve had aspirations of starting a family and that just became more important to me. Obviously, with the way that my body has been health wise, after the [annual U.S. women’s national team mini-camp] in February, I made up my mind. I felt satisfied and was just ready to hang it up.

PU.com: You recently had your first foray into broadcasting with the Union, talk about how that all went for you.

HM: Well for starters, the weather couldn’t have been worse. But I was excited to be back in Philadelphia and to be a part of the Union’s games and I look forward to it – and to better weather the rest of the way.

PU.com: What are you goals now in your gig with the Union and in broadcasting on a whole?

HM: I am just starting over, so I am just looking forward to getting my feet wet again, and taking the same approach that I did in my soccer career in that I wanted to get better every single game. During the work off the field to make sure that I am ready and prepared on game day is really important for me to go out there and help contribute to the broadcast in any way I can. Hopefully my role will continue to evolve over the course of the season and we’ll see where things go in the future.

PU.com: You’ve lived all over, but what made you decide to settle on Philadelphia?

HM: I have lived in so many different places and when [Mitts and husband in former Eagles quarterback AJ Feeley] kept throwing out ideas of where we wanted to end up, Philly just kept coming up. It came up enough where we just decided to give it a try. We have great friends and great connections here in Philly and very fond memories of our playing days here.

PU.com: When you look at MLS and soccer in America and how it’s continued to evolve, what are your thoughts on the growth?

HM: I think it’s exciting that the league has been around as long as it has and obviously the standard of play has definitely improved every single time I’ve watched a game and I think that says a lot about soccer in the United States. The product teams are putting out on the field and the way these clubs are evolving is amazing. Obviously, the fan base is a huge part of it too, and all those things put together really make it an exciting time and I am excited in my new role to be a part of it.

PU.com: Is it going to be tough for you to watch the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015, knowing you won’t be a part of it all?

HM: Yeah, I am sure it’s going to be hard to watch the players that I’ve played with compete and go after another World Cup. There is nothing better than playing the sport that you love at the highest level. But there comes a time and a place where you have to hang it up and I will be the biggest fan of the women’s national team, and who knows – maybe I’ll get a chance to be a part of that broadcast.

Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com