San Diego Wave FC signed 15-year-old midfielder Melanie Barcenas to a three-year contract through 2025, the club announced on Monday. Barcenas, a Clairemont, California native, is the first youth homegrown player in the NWSL and is currently the youngest player signing in NWSL history at 15 years and 138 days old. The previous record was held by 15-year-old Chloe Ricketts with the Washington Spirit who signed a three-year deal with the D.C. club earlier this month. The record was orginally established by Portland Thorns midfielder Olivia Moultrie, who signed with the Thorns back in 2021.
"I'm very excited to sign my first professional contract with my hometown team, San Diego Wave," said Barcenas. "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."
Barcenas' new contract is made possible through the leagues' new Under-18 Entry Mechanism. Rules under the new mechanism mean that players under the age of 18 must reside with a parent or legal guardian until they turn 18 and cannot be traded or waived without parent or guardian consent. That includes expansion drafts and with the NWSL recently announcing Utah Royals as the latest expansion side along with another yet to be named side slated for arrival in 2024, neither club will be able to select Barcenas in next year's expansion draft.
"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," said San Diego Wave FC Head Coach Casey Stoney. "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."
The young midfielder has experience at the youth club level and international stage. She played her youth club days with San Diego Surf, and became the first high school player to sign a name, image and likeness (NIL) deal with Nike when she signed on Jan. 1, 2022. She has been called up for U-14, U-15 and U-16 U.S. Women's National Teams training camps and her most recent camp was with the U-17 team for matches against England.
The NWSL will begin it's 11th year on March 25 and San Diego Wave FC will begin it's regular season on Saturday against the Chicago Red Stars at Snapdragon Stadium. Barcena's is offically part of the Wave's 2023 roster with her new contract, but no indiciation on whether she will feature during opening weekend.