To the next level

Young woman playing in a soccer game.
Stanford freshman Mia Bhuta signed a name, image and likeness contract with adidas. Bhuta was the first Indian-American to play for the U.S. in a World Cup event when she co-captained the U.S. Girls’ Under-17 team last year.

Like so many parents, Vyom and Joy Bhuta discovered a philosophy to apply to raising children. It’s simple, and apparently highly effective.

“My wife and I kind of look at each other, and one of the things as parents we figured out is that you put them in an environment that inspires them and then you just get out of their way. That’s exactly what we did,” Vyom Bhuta, Roycroft Avenue, said.

Of their three children, daughter Mia, 17, has thrived in the environment her parents created to the point of achieving some fame. She has run–and dribbled and kicked and headed and trapped–her way to a soccer career that has brought her national and even international attention, while also excelling academically.

BHUBANESWAR, INDIA – OCTOBER 10: Mia Bhuta of United States speaks to the media during a press conference ahead of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 at the Kalinga Stadium on October 10, 2022 in Bhubaneswar, India. (Photo by Tom Dulat – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Here are her resume highlights (deep breath):

She became the first Indian-American, male or female, to play for the United States in a FIFA World Cup event when she was co-captain of the Under-17 team last October in India.

She is expected to begin attending camps for the U.S. women’s Under-20 team, with realistic aspirations of eventually playing in the FIFA senior World Cup the tournament that was all over TV this past summer–and the Olympics.

She graduated early from Mt. Lebanon High School, started taking classes last spring at Stanford University and joined the Cardinal women’s soccer team for its spring workouts.

She is playing her freshman season at Stanford this fall.

 She signed an NIL (name, image and likeness) promotional deal with adidas, which not only helps financially, but also enhances her platform of increasing diversity in soccer.

 Did we mention she doesn’t turn 18 until December?

 Mia manages to juggle everything with panache.

“I have my goals, and I know what I want to accomplish, so it’s just staying focused on that and knowing what my priorities are, and then keeping a good schedule,” the accomplished midfielder said. “The biggest part of it that helps me is having a great support system. My family is amazing. My parents are super-helpful. Growing up in Mt. Lebanon, I had the best coaches, teachers. Everyone was just so supportive of what I was trying to do. I have that now at Stanford.

“From a young age, I’ve always been
super-busy with sports, school, whatever it might be. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what I need to get done, and having a plan on how I’m going to do it. Sometimes it’s challenging.”

One could only imagine.

Her first hero in soccer was Lionel Messi, an Argentinian who became a superstar internationally, and professionally in Europe. This year he made headlines by signing with Inter Miami of Major League Soccer.

Now Mia is creating her own path.

Not only does she have a bright future, but she also has come along at an opportune time for women’s national team players and for college athletes.

The U.S. women’s team, through a highly public and arduous push, has made big strides toward equal pay with the men’s team.

On the college side, after generations of debate over whether student-athletes deserve some sort of compensation beyond scholarships, NILs are a recent development.

Mia has a deep appreciation for the work others have done for younger athletes like her. “I think it’s great to give athletes these kinds of opportunities because in the past they weren’t offered,” she said.

“Signing with adidas was amazing for me. That was my brand growing up. I fell in love with the game watching Messi and wearing my adidas cleats. To have it come full circle where I’m working with the brand is incredible.”

Vyom noted that previously some athletes, including soccer players, might have turned pro rather than playing in college, or left school early. His daughter wasn’t pressured into those choices and is getting an education at one of the country’s more prestigious schools.

It’s not just a monetary arrangement with adidas despite a view by some that in sports such as college football, NILs are a way to recruit players with financial incentives.

“I think they reached out more because of her message and what she stands for and her ability to reach an audience in terms of growing the women’s game globally,” Vyom said.

Mia views it as a partnership with a shared mission to promote diversity in soccer.

Mia surrounded by teammates.

“I think I’m just someone who’s trying to use my passions to make the world a better place and help other people achieve their goals,” she said. “When I was younger, I had always known about the inequalities that existed. My dad being from India, I had always known about my heritage and about the culture in India, but I don’t think it was until I got older and started to travel the world more for sports that I was able to see it first-hand.”

That was never clearer than when she played in the age-group World Cup last year in India, where the Americans made it to the quarterfinals.

“Organically, she was getting a reaction from everybody in India,” Vyom said. “She was getting messages about how she was inspiring others.”

Mia spends time thinking about paying it forward, “seeing how we can use our voices and our platform now as players who are playing at these highest levels, then give back and pave that way for these younger players.”