GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson was supposed to go to New Zealand to watch his girlfriend, U.S. Women's National Team forward Sophia Smith, play in her World Cup debut a couple weeks ago.
He had it all planned. He even told Smith he was coming. But the rookie reconsidered, deciding that crossing hemispheres wasn't the best idea leading into his first NFL training camp. Smith was initially upset, Wilson said, and she shared a valuable lesson in relationships: He shouldn't have gotten her hopes up.
At the end of the day, Smith was fine, as was evident with her two goals and assist in the United States' opening-game win.
But Wilson didn't need to be in the land Down Under to know what his long-time girlfriend could do.
That didn't mean it still wasn't special.
"It was surreal, for sure," he said.
Wilson has seen Smith grow into an international superstar in front of his eyes. The two met when they were freshmen at Stanford University and Wilson has been there for her rise from struggles and an injury early in her collegiate career, to winning a NCAA national championship to being the No. 1 overall pick for Portland Thorns FC in the NWSL, to winning the league's MVP and a NWSL championship, to being one of the best players in the World Cup.
"[It has been] truly an honor to be by her side while she's able to accomplish all that stuff," he said.
While they may not be used to a 19-hour time difference, Wilson and Smith have figured out how to be in a long-distance relationship since she was drafted by Portland in 2020.
That doesn't mean it's been easy.
"Doing [a] long distance relationship is very, very challenging, especially [at] a young age," Wilson said. "There's so much maturity that happens on both ends from 18 to 22, 23 years old. Like, her going back to 18, she's pretty much a completely different person and so am I, so we've had to grow individually, but also had to grow together as a couple.
"So, we just support each other through the best that we can, the time change is tough, not seeing each other a lot [is] tough."
They do what they can, though, with two extremely busy schedules.
They text daily but don't see each other every day. Sometimes, they'll get on a FaceTime call for an hour or two and just go about their days, not even talking. Wilson has been studying his plays at the team hotel with Smith on the phone.
Having tight end Zach Ertz, who's going through his third World Cup with a significant other on the U.S. Women's National Team, around has helped.
Wilson and Ertz first met back on April 8th, when the USWNT played Ireland in a pre-World Cup match in Austin, Texas, and Ertz's wife, Julie Ertz, was playing alongside Smith. Wilson and Ertz agreed to stay in touch wherever Wilson landed in the NFL draft, which was coming up a few weeks later.
As luck would have it, Wilson was drafted by the Cardinals in the third round, making him teammates with Ertz. It didn't take long for Wilson to hear that the Cardinals had become the team of USWNT significant others.
Unlike Zach and Julie, though, Wilson knows he and Smith aren't a household couple just yet. Wilson estimated about 75 people around the Cardinals' organization have mentioned something to him about his girlfriend being on the USWNT.
During the last few weeks, however, he's seen his teammates and coaches get into the World Cup.
When meetings let out around 7:30 p.m. in Arizona on Wednesday, Wilson said there were about 15 minutes left in the United States' second group-stage match against the Netherlands and a bunch of teammates ran to the team's dining area where the game was on TV to catch the end of it.
"Everyone's invested," he said. "It's the World Cup. How could you not be?"