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Melanie Barcenas, 15, makes pro debut as youngest NWSL player

After making her NWSL debut as the youngest player in league history, Melanie Barcenas signed autographs for fans at Snapdragon Stadium. (David Frerker/USA TODAY Sports)

Melanie Barcenas, 15, made her NWSL debut on Saturday night, becoming the youngest player in league history to log game minutes. Barcenas played 19 minutes in San Diego’s 3-1 loss to the Orlando Pride, competing in front of 16,225 fans at Snapdragon Stadium.

“I thought tonight was the night where we needed a little bit more quality on the ball, maybe a bit of creativity. And I felt she brought that,” San Diego head coach Casey Stoney said of her decision to sub Barcenas into the game in the 71st minute.

“She showed tonight what she’s about. I need to go over with her that once you beat the player, deliver the ball. I thought she did that in the box, and then tried to beat her again. So that’s a learning at this level… But it’s fantastic that she’s made her appearance tonight, and I’m really proud of her.”

The NWSL changed its age policy in 2022 and teams are now able to sign U18 players, with restrictions. Barcenas, who signed a three-year contract with San Diego last month, cannot be traded or waived before her 18th birthday without her and her parents’ consent.

Youngest NWSL players — Age in debut NWSL game

  1. Melanie Barcenas (15 years, 181 days when she played her first NWSL game in April 2023)
  2. Olivia Moultrie (15 years, 289 days when she played her first NWSL game in 2021)
  3. Chloe Ricketts (15 years, 327 days when she played her first NWSL game in April 2023)