If you were to make a list of the best creative talents who've played for professional soccer teams in Philadelphia over the years, who would be on it?

From the Union, I'm sure you'd have Cristian Maidana, Vincent Nogueira and Roger Torres. Perhaps Kléberson too, and maybe even Freddy Adu and Carlos Ruiz. The Independence had plenty of candidates too: Lauren Holiday, Caroline Seger, Natasha Kai, Megan Rapinoe (if only briefly), Lianne Sanderson, Véronica Boquete.

Go back a little farther in time, and you'll find someone who I'd bet would be a lock for more than a few of you: Kelly Smith.

In her three years with the Philadelphia Charge, the Englishwoman was a cult hero for Philadelphia-area soccer fans yearning for a connection to the global game. We can only wonder what would have happened had ACL tears not taken her off the field for much of the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

We do know what happened after the WUSA folded: a stellar career with Arsenal, the Boston Breakers and England's national team. Smith's status as a great ambassador for women's soccer has only grown since she left Villanova Stadium 12 years (yes, really) ago.

She called time on international duty in February in order to focus on her club career with the Gunners, and also to start working in television. We saw that in the U.S. last month, as Smith excelled on Fox's Women's World Cup studio coverage.

I caught up with her in Vancouver a few days before the end of the tournament. Even though it's been a long time since the Charge era, Smith told me she still has fond memories of playing with Heather Mitts, Hope Solo, Marinette Pichon and others.

"They were some of the best days of my life, that first professional league," Smith said. "The crowds were amazing, the whole town kind of took to the Philadelphia Charge. We just loved playing in front of such passionate fans, and I'm surprised that they don't have a team, because it's such a good sporting city and I feel that they need one."

As Smith began the transition from the field to the studio set, she admitted that she struggled with the rhythms of television work early on. But it clearly didn't take her long to find her footing.

"It was difficult at first because I was really quite nervous, and I can see from the footage looking back how nervous I was," she told me as we chatted in Vancouver a few days before the World Cup final. "But I think I've grown into the role, become more comfortable speaking about what I'm seeing, and relaying that to the general public. It's something that I want to continue doing."

Smith added that she learned a lot from colleagues at Fox who brought a wealth of experience broadcasting soccer, such as Rob Stone, Heather Mitts and Alexi Lalas.

"I've not regretted the decision to retire or work for Fox - it's a great organization and I can't thank them enough for giving me the opportunity," Smith said. "Obviously playing the game is a different kettle of fish, but when you speak to the experts that I've been working with, it has just taken it to another level."

Smith had the privilege of watching her home country deliver an historic performance in Canada. England's surprising run to third place drew unprecedented praise and attention from the nation that gave birth to the sport. It was a result that few expected - including Smith herself.

"The BBC didn't really plan for them getting to the semifinal because they didn't budget for it, so that just says how well they've done," she said. "They've broken barriers down within our sport back home - I think they'll go back heroes."

Now England has a real opportunity to rise to prominence in the women's game, not just at home but worldwide. It will take continued investment by the FA and commercial sponsors, but Smith says that the World Cup showed the potential for what can happen in the future.

"So many perceptions have changed about women's football just from seeing the performances that they've given in this tournament," she said. "People that probably wouldn't normally watch a women's game are now tuning in at midnight and watching and supporting and walking down the street saying, 'Are you watching the game tonight?' "

If those fans tune in to women's soccer again in the future, it won't be surprising if they see Smith helping to tell the stories of a new generation of English stars.