Despite restrictions on options of where she could play -- expansion Racing Louisville holds the No. 1 pick in Wednesday's NWSL College Draft -- and how much she could make -- despite the NWSL's new and expanded compensation system -- Catarina Macario
said the decision to sign with French club Lyon had nothing to do with money.
"I just decided that through the COVID uncertainty and the restrictions we are facing that I just wanted to have consistent playing, especially ahead of the Olympics," Macario said in a U.S. Soccer media call on Tuesday. "I am fresh out of college and I was looking for a new adventure. I think the best thing for me is to experience a new culture and learn from the best in the world. I know that in OL I’ll have all the facilities, all the resources that I can get in order to become the best player that I can be. I think that spending two and a half years there will really take me to the next level."
Macario, 21, couldn't tick off Lyon's accomplishments, but she said they were convincing:
-- Five straight UEFA Champions League titles and seven in the last decade;
-- Fourteen straight Division I Féminine titles;
-- Eight French Cup titles in the last nine years.
Lyon's unbeaten streak in league play was snapped by Paris St. Germain at 80 games in November. It doesn't face competition from more than three or four French clubs, but the competition for playing time will be fierce.
Lyon features French stars Sarah Bouhaddi
, Delphine Cascarino
, Amandine Henry
, Eugénie Le Sommer
, Amel Majri
, Griedge Mbock Bathy
and Wendie Renard
, but it is its foreign legion that is the most impressive. Macario's arrival gives OL players from 13 different foreign countries, including Norwegian Ada Hegerberg
, the winner of the first Women's Ballon d'Or in 2018.
"I hopped on a phone call with her actually a few weeks ago," said Macario, who said the only French she knows is from taking one class. "She was telling me about Lyon and we were talking about how we want to become a really strong duo and just take the team to a new level. I think we’re both just very excited to play with each other. She said how she’s excited to play with a very smart player, which was very flattering to hear from one of the best in the world."
Macario, who won back-to-back Hermann Trophy awards at Stanford, is considered the best prospect the USA has ever produced. She was born in Brazil but moved to the USA at the age of 12 for the better opportunities girls soccer provided in Southern California. She recently became a U.S. citizen but is awaiting approval for FIFA to represent the USA at the international level.
The USWNT's gain was the NWSL's loss when FIFA changed its waiver rules for young naturalized players in 2019. Macario will be able to play a year and a half earlier for the USA than under the old rules and will no longer have to reside in the United States during that period to meet FIFA's five-year residency requirement after a player turns 18. That doesn't mean she has given up on the NWSL.
"I would love to play in the NWSL one day, and I know that will happen," she said. "I’m not sure necessarily when but obviously as an American it’s my dream to play where I reside and so I’ll definitely be coming back."
Macario's contract binds her to Lyon through the 2022-23 season. If all goes well, her next move will be decided in 2023 when she plays in her first World Cup, giving her maximum leverage.