Pictured above: AO National's Maddie Schlotfeld with the legendary Christie Pearce.
This March, we’re honoring the incredible women who keep AO running – in the stands, in our chapters, and behind the scenes.
Maddie joined AO – and later the AO staff as an intern – while attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. If you’ve ever needed to email AO with membership questions or other service stuff, it’s a good bet she’s the one replying to you. She also assists with merch sales and in-stadium setup before matches – a role she can’t wait to take on again soon.
Let’s start at the beginning – how did you get into soccer in the first place?
I started playing in my church’s micro league in Omaha when I was 4, then for my school and a club team until age 15. I mainly played forward and occasionally midfielder.
And then how did you get into U.S. soccer?
My earliest memories watching U.S. soccer were the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics. I didn’t get super-invested, though, until the 2015 World Cup. My first cap was a Victory Tour game September 20, 2015, at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. I was on a trip to Tuscaloosa with my family for the Ole Miss-Alabama game because I had cousins who coached for both teams. ESPN’s College Gameday was there, and so were Julie Ertz, Meghan Klingenberg and Carli Lloyd, which was pretty cool. The next day, my sister and I went to the WNT game (an 8-0 win over Haiti). It was hotter than hell, but it was the best day of my life. From then on, I was hooked.
So how’d you learn about AO?
I was a senior in college and with some friends at The Bar (yes, the name of a real bar in Lincoln). The WNT was playing that afternoon, but I was watching on my phone because some other sport was on the TV. One of my friends said, “If you wanna watch U.S. soccer games on TV with a good atmosphere, you should go to Captain Jack’s – it’s the AO bar.” The next game, I went to CJ’s, and within 15 minutes, someone came up to me and asked if I had heard of AO. That was Justin (Brunken, AO co-founder). He explained AO to me, and I think I signed up before the game even kicked off. Since then, if I’m not at the game in person, I’m watching at Captain Jack’s. I’ve made some amazing friends there and they have the best bartender – shoutout to LeAnn.
And how did you get on the AO national squad?
One game at CJ’s, Mark Purkoski, the AO Lincoln chapter president, told me about an internship with AO. It’s hands down the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve been to more places in the past 2.5 years than in the previous 25 years of my life. I’ve also met some really great people through AO, and made friends with a lot of different people from chapters all over the country. I may only see them a few times a year, but when we get together, it’s such a fun time.
What have been some of your favorite games to attend?
So many come to mind – the 2019 World Cup game versus England and then the final versus the Netherlands – and of course, the pregame in Le Havre before Sweden game. Also the 2017 Tournament of Nations game versus Brazil – an epic 4-3 comeback led by Christen Press.
What does soccer – the game itself, the national team – mean to you? Why do you love it so much?
Soccer was the first sport I played, and it was always my favorite to play. My happiest place is at WNT games – I’m never not in a good mood when I’m in the stadium. The team is made up of some really, really great women who inspire so many people, and it’s so great to watch and learn from them, both on and off the field.
Why do you think AO’s mission to amplify the WNT and the players’ voices is so important?
"Women have to work so much harder to succeed – and the WNT has proven time and time again that they’re the best team in the world. It’s cool to have an organization like AO help create such a great following for the women’s team."