College Megastar Catarina Macario Is Now A U.S. Citizen — But She’s Not Eligible For USWNT Just Yet

On Thursday, Vlatko Andonovski called Catarina Macario into the USWNT fall training camp. Later that day, Macario, a Brazilian-born college megastar, announced she had obtained U.S. citizenship. So, when will Catarina Macario be eligible for USWNT games? Well, that’s still up to FIFA, and Macario herself admits there is still a ways to go.

Macario is one of the most exciting young footballers in the world right now. A two-time MAC Hermann Trophy winner, she’s racked up insane numbers at Stanford: 63 goals and 47 assists in 68 games. Last season she tallied 32 goals and 23 assists to help the Cardinal win the NCAA title. Yes, this woman is supremely talented and if she had been born in the U.S. probably would’ve played at the 2019 World Cup. Here’s just a taste of what she can do. (More highlights available here.)

But while Macario has played for USWNT youth teams, she is not yet eligible to play at the senior level, even after Thursday’s call-up and swearing in as a U.S. citizen. 

Things are a little more complicated than that. 

When Will Catarina Macario Be Eligible For USWNT?

Current FIFA rules stipulate a player must live in his or her new country for five straight years after turning 18 to become eligible. Macario turned 18 on Oct. 4, 2017, meaning she wouldn’t become eligible until Oct. 4, 2022, though that would be enough time to be eligible for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

But there is another possibility: She could convince FIFA that she did not move to the U.S. for footballing reasons. 

Macario moved to America at age 12, already something of a soccer prodigy, who was looking for greater acceptance for women’s footballers. FIFA has stricter rules on players who change nationalities for footballing reasons, though bear in mind these rules were created for men’s soccer. Macario could convince FIFA she moved for more than soccer, and earning her degree at Stanford could go a long way toward persuading FIFA to her side. 

Macario is currently on track to graduate in Stanford’s upcoming winter quarter, according to ESPN. She could, conceivably, use her degree from one of the top schools in the country to convince FIFA she’s in America for more than soccer, possibly even becoming eligible for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Or FIFA could make an example of the most talented young footballer in the world and force her to wait for her 23rd birthday to become eligible. 

Whether it’s next year or two years from now, Macario will most likely become the USWNT’s next big thing at some point. U.S. fans hope it’s sooner rather than later, but for now we can celebrate an immigrant achieving citizenship and already announcing her willingness to vote. (This is particularly important in 2020, when the Trump administration has allegedly used the pandemic as an excuse to slow down the administering of citizenship tests and swearing-in ceremonies, just one of many examples of voter suppression in the U.S.)

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