Lindsey Horan’s entire senior year was a deliberation. She could either head to college on a Division I scholarship or make an unprecedented — and risky — move to immediately turn pro.
By deciding on the latter in 2012, Horan not only made history as the first American woman to sign a professional contract straight out of high school. She also opened a door for women’s soccer players everywhere.
“I wanted to prove a lot of people wrong because a lot of people were trying to steer me the other way (to play in college),” Horan recalled. “I also wanted to prove to myself that this is a challenge that I can do, make the most of and become who I wanted to be.”
Horan is now the heartbeat of the midfield on the U.S. Women’s National Team and a star in leagues both in the U.S. and abroad. She’s become exactly who she set out to be. But it wasn’t until a few years after turning pro that she truly realized the gravity of her decision.
“I don’t think I had a sense (of making history) until two or three years later,” Horan said. “Not going to college (or staying in college briefly), that’s when it started becoming more of a thing with multiple players doing it after, (Colorado product) Mal Pugh being one of them… It showed it’s not just male players who can do that. There are options for female players to do it, and there’s more and more money there so it’s not as much of a huge risk.”
Horan’s historic move, made more significant when seen through the lens of Title IX and expanded opportunities in women’s athletics, almost fell through. She was initially offered a contract by Olympique Lyonnais Féminin (her current European club, where she’s on loan from NWSL’s Portland Thorns) at age 17, when she was a junior at Golden High School.
But she didn’t feel quite ready to make that leap.
So Horan waited a year, and by the time she made her decision to turn pro, Olympique Lyonnais had already filled all its slots for foreign players. Horan thought her chance of turning pro was over, but Paris-Saint Germain came in and offered her a two-year contract.
Fast-forward a decade later, and Horan has also been part of the USWNT squad that fought for, and won, equal pay to their male counterparts.
“We’ve done a lot, but it’s only just the beginning,” Horan said. “I’m so excited we accomplished (equal pay)…but I hear all the other national teams and where they’re at, and it makes me sad. Hopefully, now we’re kind of the standard and women ask for this from their federations. It’s a huge milestone for us.”