Melanie Barcenas, 15, makes historic debut for Wave

Fifteen-year-old San Diego native Melanie Barcenas shattered history when she signed a three-year contract with San Diego Wave Fútbol Club on March 21, making her the youngest player in the history of the National Women’s Soccer League.

“I literally [have been] training on those fields my entire life, and now to be playing and representing the women’s soccer team is crazy … I am so excited and blessed,” Barcenas said in a signing day interview with Wave.

Prior to her regular season debut, Barcenas appeared in a pre-season game against Angel FC on March 18. She then made her official NWSL debut at Snapdragon Stadium on April 29 against Orlando Pride. Stepping onto the pitch in the 72nd minute, Barcena’s “creativity” contributed to her team’s offense, Wave Head Coach Casey Stoney said in a press conference regarding Barcenas’ debut.

At the end of the match, Wave lost to Pride 3-1.

“I thought [that] was a night that we needed a little more quality on the ball,” Stoney said in the press conference. “I felt that [Barcenas] brought that and that she showed us what she’s about.”

Growing up, Barcenas played for her local traveling team, San Diego Surf. Her recognition started at a young age and later led to her initial recruitment to the Mexico Youth National Team, and later her transition to play on the United States Youth National Team.

Even prior to her NWSL career, Barcenas’ talent was recognized and exposed to the world. She appeared on the cover of TIME magazine at the age of nine and signed a NIL deal with Nike in 2022.

While she was still at Surf, Barcenas trained with the Wave team and worked with Wave’s Technical and Development Coach, Craig Barclay, as well as the Assistant Coach and Head of Goalkeeping, Louis Hunt.

“She came back this year fitter and stronger than she was last year when she trained with the team,” Hunt said. “She has been able to handle the physical challenges of being a 15-year-old playing against professional adults really well this year in training and pre-season games.”

In December 2021, Wave held a press conference revealing the team’s future plans, including the team’s crest and colors. The team is currently wrapping up their second season in the NWSL.

“Being from San Diego, I always looked forward to when the U.S. National Team players like Alex Morgan and Abby Dahlkemper would get to play here,” Barcenas said during the press conference.

At the end of the conference, Barcenas expressed her excitement regarding new opportunities for young female athletes like herself.

“She has shown that with dedication and passion for the game, there really are no limits these days for female athletes,” Hunt said. “Now the real hard work starts for her in how she can make a big impact for the team and achieve even bigger goals.”

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