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Jaedyn Shaw signs new Wave deal with USWNT goals in mind

Jaedyn Shaw debuted for the San Diego Wave as a 17-year-old last season. (Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports)

The San Diego Wave have signed 18-year-old forward Jaedyn Shaw to a new multi-year contract through the 2026 season. Similar to new deals for goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and defender Naomi Girma, San Diego offered Shaw the NWSL’s maximum three-year extension, with an additional option year that has already been mutually exercised.

“At just 18, Jaedyn has proven to be one of the best in the league, and we’re excited to help her develop both on and off the field,” Wave head coach Casey Stoney said in a team release. “Her vision and ability on the ball is some of the best I’ve seen in the game and she’s yet to even hit her ceiling.

“This contract is well-deserved for Jaedyn and absolutely thrilled to have her here in San Diego.”

For Shaw, the extension reflects just how much San Diego has become home. The teenager joined the Wave in the middle of the 2022 season, after waiting for a now-defunct discovery process tailored toward players under the age of 18. Upon her arrival as a 17-year-old, she immediately began contributing, scoring just 28 minutes into her professional debut.

“Being in the city and the environment, I feel like I just have fun and it’s something that I can enjoy whether or not I’m playing well necessarily,” Shaw tells Just Women’s Sports.

This season, Shaw has taken on an even greater role, slotting in on the wings and as an underlying playmaker depending on the opposition. In 15 games played, she has scored four goals (trailing only Alex Morgan) and registered one assist for San Diego.

Joining the Wave last year presented more than a few unknowns for the teenager, not least of which was her move to California.

“Coming from Texas, you’re not the biggest fan of California in general,” she says with a laugh. “So I kind of had a little bit of stereotypical things in my mind when I moved here. But when I got here I was like, ‘Oh my god, the people are so nice. The city is amazing.’’

Shaw is a big fan of the beach (though not of sand, she admits). She also has the benefit of her family making a home for itself in the city and providing a support system that allows her to focus on developing as a soccer player.

That foundation is the base upon which Shaw has continued to push herself, and it’s no surprise that a player willing to make the jump to the professional level at 17 is open about her desire to play soccer on the biggest stages.

“I feel like for me, a lot of it is just getting on the national team,” she says. “I feel like I have had that goal in the back of my mind for a while now, and seeing them giving chances to younger players, I feel like I’m just right there. And I just need to continue to play how I know how, and I’ll get my chance soon enough.”

Shaw has already found success at the USWNT youth levels, earning U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year honors in 2022. To compete for a spot on the senior team in the foreseeable future, Shaw knows she needs to embrace high standards while not losing the aspects of her game that make her so special. She has honed that balanced approach within the Wave’s competitive environment.

“I grew up with coaches that were hard on me, and my mom is hard on me,” she says. “And that’s something that I think just helps me grow. Not necessarily that Casey is hard on me, but I just think that her standards set the bar, and allow me to come into training and, yes, make mistakes, but also be in an environment where I can grow and learn and be my best self every day.”

Shaw is a competitor, who jokes she’d be out on the field practicing two or three times a day if the training staff would allow her. She has both a desire to learn from those around her and a clear, confident sense of self, as she aspires to become part of the legacy of the USWNT’s creative attackers.

“I want to be the only Jaedyn Shaw, of course. I don’t want to emulate anyone play by play,” she says. “I just am really blessed to be able to play with players like Kailen and [Sofia Jakobsson] and Alex [Morgan] … They’re someone that I, yes, learn things from, but I also compete with them daily, and it’s something that I truly enjoy.”

Shaw celebrates a goal against the Orlando Pride at Snapdragon Stadium. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

With top international players away at the Word Cup, Shaw has felt herself step into more of a vocal leadership role, setting the stage for her next steps as a professional. She’s also been catching World Cup matches on TV when she can.

The Wave have hit a bit of a rough patch with those players away, dropping three straight Challenge Cup matches and sitting sixth in the regular season standings.

But with adversity comes growth, Shaw says.

“Just kind of throwing age out the window and stepping up to whatever role I am put into, or I put myself into,” she says. “I feel like when things aren’t going your way, you need somebody to step up to be a leader, whether it’s vocally or just making things happen on the field.”

She’ll be making things happen in San Diego for years to come. For now, the goal is to bring an NWSL championship to the city at home — “Of course, I want to be NWSL champion like, hello!” she says — with Snapdragon Stadium the host of this year’s championship game.

“With Snapdragon, there’s always a big crowd. And if it’s a smaller crowd, they are loud,” she says. “So I feel like this championship is going to be absolutely insane.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.