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San Diego wunderkind Melanie Barcenas signs with Wave, becomes youngest NWSL player

Two weeks after the youngest signing in National Women’s Soccer League history, there is a new player who can claim that feat.

San Diego Wave FC announced the signing of 15-year-old Melanie Barcenas, who played locally for the acclaimed San Diego Surf youth club. Barcenas, a midfielder, signed a three-year contract through the 2025.

“I’m very excited to sign my first professional contract with my hometown team, San Diego Wave,” Barcenas said. “It’s been a dream of mine to not just play in the NWSL but to have the opportunity to represent this city since the announcement of the Wave last year. I know I am young, but the team and coaching staff have been amazing, and I look forward to learning from them every day as I continue to develop.”

San Diego Wave head coach Casey Stoney previously preached the mantra, “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough,” when the team signed then 17-year-old Jaedyn Shaw last year. Shaw made an immediate impact, scoring three goals in her first three starts, including a pair of game-winners for the Wave in their expansion season.

“We are very happy that Melanie and her family have decided to entrust her hometown club as the place for her to begin her professional career,” Stoney said. “The coaches at San Diego Surf have been instrumental in helping her develop as a person and as a player for her entire youth career. We’re excited to maximize her potential through the coming years, while being patient and deliberate in advancing her development while ensuring she retains some routine and normalcy of being a teenager.”

Barcenas is over three months younger than Chloe Ricketts, the 15-year-old midfielder who the Washington Spirit signed to a contract earlier in March. Olivia Moultrie was the first 15-year-old to sign in the NWSL, in 2021, paving the way for the rule changes that have followed after settling a lawsuit with the NWSL outside of court.

Barcenas is part of the U.S. women’s national youth teams and was recently the youngest player called up to the U-17 roster for matches against England. Last year, she became the first high school player to sign a name, image and likeness (NIL) deal with Nike.

Shaw arrived in San Diego via the NWSL’s antiquated discovery rights process, but Barcenas signes with the Wave through the newly implemented U-18 entry mechanism, which allows teams to sign up to two players under the age of 18.

The Surf and Wave have also quickly formed a close relationship, including adjacent training grounds. While the NWSL does not have a formal homegrown rule, Barcenas is for all intents and purposes the first teenager to sign with her local NWSL game via this method. Alyssa Thompson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft, is a Los Angeles native and joined Angel City FC earlier this year via the draft mechanism.

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