New kids on the block: Mallory Pugh

One in an occasional series about the fresh faces

hoping to join the U.S. women’s team

Visit Mallory Pugh and Denise O'Sullivan and Louise Quinn of Ireland, Jan. 23, 2016. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Mallory Pugh vs. Ireland, Jan. 23, 2016. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

It’s been a long, long time since a player as young as Mallory Pugh drew this much attention at the international level.

When the high school phenom entered the game for Team USA in the 58th minute against Ireland on Jan. 23,  she became the youngest player — at 17 years, 8 months and 25 days — to debut for the U.S. team since 2005.

With her goal in the 83rd minute, she became the 19th American woman to score in her first appearance with the national team.

Three days later, she was named to the U.S. roster for the Olympic qualifying tournament that begins Feb. 10 in Frisco, Texas.

2016-Rio-Olympic-Logo-7Most observers think that barring a serious injury, the teenager stands an excellent chance of making the team that will compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Pugh, a high school senior in Highlands Ranch, Colo., is no stranger to success in the national program. She is the captain of the U.S. under-20 team that has already qualified for the 2016  U-20 World Cup. She won the Golden Ball (best player) and Golden Boot (most goals) awards in the World Cup qualifying tournament. She was also a key player on the U.S. under-17 team in 2013 and 2014.

This end-to-end run for a goal against Brazil in a U-20 match last June typified her dominance of the youth game:

Only 5-foot-4, the fierce young striker is sometimes compared to Mia Hamm (who was 5-5) or Kristine Lilly (5-4). No pressure there.

Pugh has committed to play for UCLA, starting in the fall.  Earlier this month, it was ucla logowidely but erroneously reported that she would forgo her scholarship to sign with the Portland Thorns, thereby becoming the first American to go directly from high school to the National Women’s Soccer League.

But after the rapid spread of those reports, her father laid them to rest, telling The Denver Post, “We did look at her possibly going pro. … It was very close to happening, but her gut feeling was that she wanted to go to college.”


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