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NWSL May 02, 2023

Melanie Barcenas makes NWSL debut at age 15, a new record for the league

On December 15, 2021, San Diego Wave FC held a press conference to unveil the newest NWSL club’s crest and colors before the upcoming inaugural season for the team. Wave’s President Jill Ellis, Head Coach Casey Stoney, forward Alex Morgan and defender Abby Dahlkemper were in attendance, talking about the excitement of bringing the NWSL to San Diego.

To close out the press conference, a 13-year-old local youth player named Melanie Barcenas stood in front of the crowd to deliver a speech.

“Being from San Diego, I always looked forward to when the U.S. National Team players like Alex Morgan and Abby Dahlkemper would get to play here. Now, I get to cheer for them locally,” said Barcenas at the launch. “I think it’s really awesome to see opportunities for girls my age and generations after to have an opportunity to represent their own hometown team.”

Exactly 500 days later, Barcenas would be the one representing her hometown team. In the 72nd minute, in front of 16,225 fans at Snapdragon Stadium, the PA announcer began to say, “Melanie Barcenas, San Diego, California,” which prompted the crowd to erupt for the Clairemont native. With the substitution, the local product who grew up playing for San Diego Surf Soccer Club, made her professional debut in front of her family and friends, in the city she grew up in.

“It’s a big stage to go on in,” said Stoney in a post-game press conference following Barcenas debut. “She’s creative and she’s an exceptional talent. She’s still obviously only 15, so we need to look after her. I think she’s a player that’s going to get people off their seats and a player that people want to come watch. It’s an exciting future for her.”

With the debut, Barcenas became the youngest player to ever appear for a club in NWSL history (15 years, 177 days). It follows the Wave’s announcement in March that Barcenas had become the youngest ever signing in NWSL history, along with becoming the first local youth player to sign for a club.

Barcenas and the Wave head on the road to face the Washington Spirit on Saturday, May 6. The match will kick off at 10:00 a.m. PT and be nationally broadcasted live on CBS.