Utah Royals FC defender Katie Bowen selected for third World Cup. But this one could be the most special of all.

Sandy • As the New Zealand national team roster for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup was being announced via YouTube on Sunday, Utah Royals FC defender Katie Bowen watched along with other members of New Zealand Football, patiently waiting to see her name.

As other teammates were announced by familiar faces from the New Zealand soccer world, Bowen wondered who was chosen to reveal her spot on the squad. But then she saw two familiar faces: her mother, Pippa, and sister, Kelly.

“When I saw them on the screen, I was ecstatic,” Bowen said Tuesday after training. “They were saying stuff that my dad would’ve said. … It did make me a bit emotional.”

In a few short months, Bowen will join her country’s national team as an official member of its World Cup roster. It will be the third World Cup of her career.

“It’s kind of a bit surreal,” Bowen said.

In the video, Bowen’s mother and sister congratulated her and gave her “Bowen tips.” Bowen said she was not aware that two of her family members would make the announcement.

Bowen’s selection to the team could hold a special significance. Her father, Dave, died a year and a half ago, she said. He was a big reason she started playing soccer, she said.

“He was kind of taken too early,” Bowen said. “But when I step on the field — even if it’s training, weight room, whatever — it’s kind where I feel closest to him, it’s where I can still hear him yelling from the stands.”

Bowen first competed in a World Cup for New Zealand when she was 17 years old. At that point, she had already been a regular on the country’s under-17 team, where she made her debut in 2008 as a 14-year-old.

In 2011, before learning she had made her first World Cup roster, Bowen constantly checked her phone, waiting with her family for the call. But the anticipation of being selected has changed somewhat then. Bowen said she never expects to be selected to the World Cup roster, but sometimes it feels like a given, especially due to her now-veteran status with the national team.


At Rio Tinto Stadium

When • Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Bowen has appeared in 58 games for New Zealand and scored three goals in the process. Now that she’s considered one of the leaders on the national team, she is looking forward to the increased responsibility on that stage.

“It’s a different role now,” Bowen said. “I’m more of a senior player. So it’s bigger challenges for me and just a different aspect of my game that I need to work on.”

Bowen has never been to France, she said. But that will soon change for the Royals defender, whose mother, sister and brother-in-law will all travel there to watch her compete.

The saying “for club and country” is a staple in regards to international soccer players. For Bowen, she’s playing for something more: family. And specifically, her dad, who she can still hear yelling instructions from the stands when she plays.

“It’s little things like after games, I know exactly what he’d be critiquing me on, which I still like because it’s still as if we’ve got that relationship and that he’s still here,” Bowen said. “So I think I just want to make him proud, make my family proud.”