Lindsey Horan: Next big American export to Europe

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Who, you ask? I’ll confess, I had the same reaction. I’m no expert on the U.S. Women’s U-20 situation, particularly when the player in question hasn’t even hit college.

Lindsey Horan, however, is going to be skipping college (for now), turning down powerhouse University of North Carolina for a lucrative deal with France Feminine Division 1 side Paris Saint-Germain. The Parisians have lured the 18-year-old with “a six-figure contract,” according to Equalizer Soccer:

Horan was slated to begin her freshman year of college this fall at North Carolina on a full scholarship. The U.S. U-20 midfielder is considered by many to be the top recruit of the Class of 2012.

Horan trained with French powerhouse and European champion Lyon this past fall for two weeks, but it is PSG – fourth place finishers in France’s Division 1 Féminine this year – who have snatched up the young scoring sensation as part of a larger push by the club to establish itself among Europe’s elite.

Nice to see PSG ambition isn’t confined to the men.

Horan had been playing with the Colorado Rush of the USL’s W-League, scoring twice in three summer appearances. She’s rated among the top forwards in the 2012 class, some rating her as the top college entrant overall. Now, she’s a former college entrant.

As Equalizer notes, that status may bother some:

The move may come as a concern to those around the U.S. already concerned about a mass export of American players to Europe due to the uncertainty and instability of women’s soccer in the U.S. The fact that a club like PSG is willing to dish out a reported six-figure contract to an 18-year-old won’t help those folks sleep any easier tonight.

I know a few of these people, but they’re the vast minority, though they make up a larger portion of those who follow women’s soccer on a day-to-day basis.

Within the larger fanbase, people are excited to see American talent (men and women) get chances in Europe. That’s what the Michael Bradley story is about, right? It’s not just a player moving to Roma. It’s an American moving on up. Horan’s moving on up: Big time.

Would the attitude be the same if Women’s Professional Soccer were still around? No, but I think we’ve come to grips with that. When so many U.S. internationals elected to stay home, dropping to lower-tier leagues after WPS went on permanent hiatus, there was a mix of disappointment and relief. With UEFA’s Women’s Champions League having gained traction, many U.S. Women’s National Team fans want to see their best play the world’s best. And if not see it, then at least read about it.

It’s hard to begrudge a young athlete finally getting paid for their work. Even at the young age of 18, a player like Horan represents a decade of hard work and sacrifice, efforts made by the player as well as the family. College will always be the dream in this country, but some players are allowed to transcend their dreams. Thankfully, we’ve reached a point where, just like for the men, the women can aspire to a big payday with European elite.

That’s nothing to lose sleep over.

Once the Olympics are over (and the national team is three years from its next major tournament), it will be interesting to see if other young Americans make the jump. Players like Heather O’Reilly and Amy Rodriguez (both married last year) may have a hard time redefining their lives, but Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Lauren Cheney, Kelley O’Hara and Tobin Heath (all 22-24)? I’m sure they have plenty of reason to stay stateside, too. But they probably need the competition, if not the experience.