Maddy Evans achieved her dream, making it as a pro soccer player in the NWSL, despite going in the fourth round of the inaugural college draft and not being signed out of training camp.
But in her fifth season and making only $16,000 a year, Evans retired as a member of the Orlando Pride.
“My decision wasn’t made on one or two things," Evans said after
her final game on Saturday. "It was made on a bunch of different things, but I’m 26, turning 27, and I make $16,000 a year playing in this league and I'm in my fifth season."
(née Whitney) captained Penn State to the 2012 NCAA final and was taken by the Boston Breakers in the 2013 college draft. She wasn't a star but was good enough to play three seasons for the
Breakers and two for the Pride, which joined the NWSL in 2016. She also spent the last offseason with the Brisbane Roar in Australia.
Evans isn't the first NWSL player to retire at the peak of her career. FC Kansas City won league titles in 2014 and
2015 but lost defenders Leigh Ann Robinson and Amy LePeilbet and midfielders Lauren Holiday and Jen Buczkowski to retirement, and it hasn't been the same since.
With the 2017 salary cap at $315,000 -- salaries for allocated players are paid for by U.S. Soccer -- and maximum and minimum salaries at $41,700 and $15,000 (up from $7,200), it is hard for
players to commit to pro soccer for the long term.
"I think that obviously it’s gotten better every single year," said Evans, who holds two college degrees. "Unfortunately, it
just didn’t kind of caught up with where I needed to be.”
She said her goal for the NWSL is that in 10 years players who are in their late 20s can stay in the league. But she
could not wait that long.
"I look at where I want to be in three years," she said, "and being here unfortunately isn't getting me there."
Saturday's final match -- a 5-0 win
over Sky Blue FC -- was an emotional evening for Evans. Pride fans chanted her name in the 18th minute -- honoring her number -- and star Marta came over and kissed her to celebrate her first
goal, whispering to her, "I love you."
When Jasmyne Spencer was fouled for a penalty kick in the 66th minute with the score at 5-0, Marta gave Evans the ball to take the penalty
kick. Sky Blue keeper Kailen Sheridan stopped the shot -- "I thought she could do me a solid," Evans joked afterwards -- but the first missed PK in her career could not take away from what
Evans' time in Orlando has meant to her.
“This club and this organization and these fans," she said, "it’s a dream to play here. It’s incredible. Even when, say,
you’re not getting the minutes that you want or whatever, you’re having a bad day, you need to look at what we have here and it’s absolutely unbelievable.”