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Black History Month: Cat, Cat, Cat

The Catarina Macario era is here.

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Uzbekistan v United States Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

When people think about the greatest American women’s soccer players that ever lived, many will bring up Mia Hamm or Michelle Akers. Some may hit you with an Abby Wambach. However, when Catarina Macario’s time is done, many think she will replace some of the names adorned on U.S. Soccer’s Mount Rushmore.

Macario was born in São Luís, a city in the northern tip of Brazil. She started playing soccer at an early age, eventually making it to the Flamengo academy in São Luís before moving to the Cruziero academy. Her family moved to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, when she was 7, and it was there that she joined the Santos academy. She stayed with the Santos academy for 4 years while she developed her game.

In December 2011, at the age of 12 and without speaking any English, Macario moved with her father and brother to the United States, settling in San Diego while her mother continued her medical practice in Brazil. There, she continued to develop her game. She joined the San Diego Surf’s youth ranks, where people quickly learned her name. Catarina Macario set an all-time scoring record in the ECNL, scoring 165 goals, an unfathomable number.

She joined the USWNT youth ranks in 2012, being called in to represent the United States on the U-14s and U-15s. In 2017, she committed to play for the Stanford Cardinal. Entering college, she dominated immediately. She played 25 matches, scoring 17 goals and adding 16 assists as Stanford won a national championship. She won several postseason awards, including ESPNW Player of the Year and Top Drawer Soccer’s Freshman of the Year. She also won Pac-12 Forward and Freshman of the Year awards.

In 2018, Macario was called to the USWNT U-23s, where she scored 5 goals in 5 games. Her incredible knack for creating and scoring goals carried over to her sophomore year at Stanford. She scored 14 goals and added 8 assists in 19 matches. At the end of the season, the accolades continued. She was awarded the ESPNW Player of the Year and Pac-12 Forward of the Year for a 2nd straight year. But she was also declared one of the top college players in the country, winning Top Drawer Soccer’s National Player of the Year and the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy.

In 2019, Macario once again destroyed the competition in her junior year, leading Stanford to its 2nd national title in 3 seasons. Macario won the Honda Sports Award and also won her second straight MAC Hermann Trophy. She became just the 6th woman to repeat as a MAC Hermann Trophy winner.

It was at this point that Macario started to have a tough decision. Brazil’s national team desperately wanted her to play internationally for them, while she had come up through the USWNT system. Despite many attempts by Brazil to call her up, Macario declared that she would represent the United States at the international level.

She received her first USWNT call-up in October 2020, though she wasn’t yet cleared to represent the United States. In January 2021, Macario announced that she was leaving Stanford to start her professional career, finishing with 63 goals in 69 appearances for the Cardinal. She turned down a contract with the NWSL to sign with Lyon on January 12, 2021. The very next day, FIFA officially cleared Cat to play for the USWNT. Just a few days later, on January 18, 2021, she made her debut, becoming the first naturalized citizen to ever play for the USWNT.

She scored her first USWNT goal in just her 2nd cap, and she carried that confidence to Lyon. In 2 seasons, she’s scored 28 goals in 44 appearances. She also was named to the USWNT roster for the 2020 Olympics. The start of 2022 seemed to be a monster for Macario, as she had some ridiculous goals for club and country. She was already being talked about as an all-time great. However, in June 2022, Catarina Macario tore her ACL while playing for Lyon. She is expected to return to the field in just a few weeks, with plenty of time to prepare for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Macario’s skills are incredible, with her ability to provide highlight reel moves and goals. Some of the plays she does on the field make the stands look like you’re watching an And1 Mixtape Tour game. She can seemingly score at will, and she has done the incredible so many times already for club and country. She’s only 23, but it feels like we’re looking at one of the greatest players to ever play the game in Catarina Macario. Her journey to the United States has shaped her game. Her meteoric rise is just getting started. And we’re all witness to the fact that the Cat Era has begun.


For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing stories throughout the month to highlight some of the biggest moments in Black American and world soccer history.