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Catarina Macario is the future — and maybe the present — of the USWNT

John Todd/ISI Photos

When the U.S women’s national team announced its roster on Thursday for the squad’s first gathering in over seven months, scheduled immediately after the end of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Fall Series, no name popped out more than that of Stanford senior Catarina Macario.

A long-time heir-apparent to the annals of U.S. soccer history, Macario has been a presence circling the U.S. national team for many years. Even at the young age of 21, her story is almost already one of legend. She moved from Brazil to the United States at the age of 12 with the dream of playing soccer professionally, and quickly became entrenched in the youth soccer scene on the West Coast through a mixture of natural talent and preternatural intelligence on the ball. She scored more goals in the Elite Clubs National League than anyone before her, even after losing a year to an ACL injury. She also joined the ranks of the U.S. U-23’s, and has been pursuing a college degree (along with considerable soccer accolades) at Stanford since 2017.

Despite being a known property as a singular talent, Macario’s immigration journey has kept her from the largest stages in American women’s soccer, in addition to her commitment to Stanford and the current economic realities of making the jump to the NWSL. She’s never featured in a U-20 World Cup, a testing ground for many promising players in the U.S. system, but in her appearances for the perpetually under-utilized U-23’s, she has always sparkled.

Due to the arduous process of naturalization, she hasn’t been eligible for American citizenship until this year, and for a long time the collective understanding was that she wouldn’t be eligible to play for the full U.S. team until October of 2022 — living in the U.S. for five years after turning 18, per long-time FIFA rules. But a recent rule change by FIFA actually undercuts the previous time limitations, and points to the possibility of Macario being eligible to play for the U.S. immediately upon receiving citizenship. And despite being eligible for the Brazil national team for years, Macario has been steady in the assertion that her dream is to play for the United States.

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