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How 19-year-old Manaka Matsukubo is already lighting up the NWSL

The North Carolina Courage midfielder and Japan international won the NWSL Challenge Cup Final MVP award a month after joining the squad. Her vision on the field is exceptional.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Japanese international Manaka Matsukubo didn’t take long to settle into the North Carolina Courage’s lineup, nor the National Women’s Soccer League. Following her debut, Courage head coach Sean Nahas told the media, “She was unbelievable.” 

Unbelievable is one way to describe the teenage talent, who was an integral part of Japan’s U-20 World Cup team that made a run to the tournament final last year. At only 19 years old, Manaka’s professional career is just getting started — and she already looks up for the challenge.

Manaka debuted professionally on March 5, in the Japanese WE League, and went on to play 12 matches. She scored four goals and added an assist in just over 1,000 minutes. Those performances, combined with her play at the youth international level, were clearly enough to put together a resume impressive enough to catch the eyes of North Carolina’s staff.

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