As the 2021 National Women's Soccer League preseason gets underway, the Orlando Pride have signed forward Sydney Leroux to a three-year contract with an option for an additional year, the club announced on Wednesday. The deal, through 2023, is the maximum contract deal available to NWSL teams and its players.

A seven year NWSL veteran and 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Champion, Leroux  has totaled 93 appearances, scoring 30 goals across all competitions. Since joining the Pride ahead of the 2018 season, she has made 26 appearances, finding the back of the net seven times. During the 2020 NWSL Fall Series, Leroux made three appearances and led the Pride in shots (8), shots on goal (5) and aerials won (8), while scoring one goal.

"I'm excited to be here in Orlando now and for the future. I know what this Club is capable of and I'm ready to get to work. It's really nice to feel valued by the Club, my teammates and the fans in Orlando," Leroux said. "I'm extremely excited to continue to work with Marc and our staff and can't wait to get a full season to prove myself."

The news was announced on National Girls & Women in Sports Day, a holiday of significance to Leroux as she recently teamed up with Candace Parker, Morgan Simianer, and DICKS sporting goods to kick-off the #StrongerWithSports challenge, which aims to showcase the strength girls and women gain by participating in sports.

Leroux discussed the personal value of NGWSD, and the upcoming 2021 season with Orlando Pride, the following has been lightly edited for length. 

NGWSD is typically a time to shine a light on young girls and women in areas of sport, who or what areas of sport do you feel needs more recognition or support?

National Girls and Women in Sports Day is a perfect holiday to reflect on the progress we've made for women athletes so far, but also serves as a reminder of the continued work ahead. Since having my two kids, it's been really important to me to fight for other working moms to have all of the support they need to be able to continue their careers at any level they want. Whether sports is a career or a hobby, women shouldn't have to give up their dreams once they become moms. 

It's also important to me that we highlight girls and women of color.  If you look at female athletes of color, they are leading the way on the field and on the court, but they are also leading the way in terms of social justice and racial inequality issues. 

Which of the current NGWSD initiatives with Dick's Sporting Goods are you most excited about and why?

I'm most excited about The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation donating 100,000 sports bras to young female athletes in need. I think people underestimate how important sports bras are for girls and women who play sports. It's an essential piece of equipment, and it's unfortunate that some girls drop out of sports because they do not have access to them. 

Personally, I perform my best when I'm feeling comfortable and good about my appearance.  There's no shame in wanting to look and feel your best!  My body has changed a lot over my career (especially after having two kids), and having a supportive sports bra has been key to feeling like I can play at the level I want.

Congratulations on another season in NWSL, Orlando Pride recently had a very challenging season, have you been able to process 2020 on a professional level and what lessons are you hoping to carry into the 2021 season?

Yes. I've been able to process and move on. It took some time but I think at this point what's in the past is in the past and we're all ready to move on from 2020. That was a hard year for EVERYONE and at this point I'm just happy that everyone is healthy and ready to take on 2021.

What are you currently doing to stay motivated for the upcoming season, and what advice do you have for any new players entering the team with Orlando?

I look at my family and how far we've come from such a hard year. That's always my motivation. My kids are going back to school after almost a year of being at home with us so I think they're extremely happy and we're happy that they get a little sense of normalcy as well.

For the new rookies coming in - don't be afraid to step on anybody's toes. You're meant to be here and you get a chance to prove yourself!

As both a pro-athlete and a mom, what advice would you give to families in under-served areas looking to support their daughters in sport?

Just have them play anywhere they can. We put so much pressure on ourselves as parents to have the best of the best for our children but, at the end of the day, all they need is a ball and some space in order to play.  Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money.  My mom did her best to give me every opportunity, and I'm so grateful for that.  But I didn't have private coaching or fancy club teams.  I used the bottom of my mom's couch to kick the ball up against and work on my touch.