Washington Spirit signed 15-year-old midfielder Chole Ricketts to a three-year contract with a fourth-year option, the club announced on Friday. The deal will run through 2026 if the option is exercised and the new Spirit signing makes Ricketts the youngest-ever player to sign with an NWSL club. She breaks the record previously set by Portland Thorns midfielder Olivia Moultrie, who signed with the Thorns back in 2021, when she was three days old than Ricketts is now.
Ricketts is making the leap to go pro through the league's new Under-18 Entry Mechanism. That means the teenager must reside with a legal guardian until she turns 18 and she cannot be traded or waived without her or her guardian's consent. She also cannot be selected by new clubs in expansion drafts, a major factor with the league preparing for two new teams in 2024.
"The opportunity to join the Washington Spirit on a professional contract is a dream come true," Ricketts said in a club statement. "I'm looking forward to continuing my development as a player and individual with the great resources here in the District. Having the chance to work with Dawn Scott (Performance, Medical, and Innovation) and Head Coach Mark Parsons as I begin my professional career is exciting, and I can't wait to do my part in contributing to the club's success. Now, let's go win another championship!"
The Spirit lifted the NWSL Championship in 2021 after navigating a tumultuous season that included the termination of former head coach Richie Burke after violating the league's anti-harassment policy, and infighting between previous majority owner Steve Baldwin and now current owner Y. Michele Kang. The club struggled to defend its title in 2022, fired former head coach Kris Ward midseason due to racist profiling, and closed out the season in 10th place.
During the offseason, the club expanded the technical staff and hired new head coach Mark Parsons for his second stint with the club. He previously led the Thorns to multiple titles and coached Moultrie when she signed in 2021. Parsons is now tasked with developing a roster with several core players including USWNT players Andi Sullivan, Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez, and Trinity Rodman.
"This season, we remain very focused on building a roster that can help us succeed now while also investing in the future," said Parsons in a club statement. "Chloe has shown great quality with and without the ball and has an incredible intensity in everything she does. The vision and infrastructure of our club make this signing possible, and we are looking forward to Chloe developing and becoming an important player and teammate for our team."
The Spirit will begin their regular season against 2022 NWSL Shelid winners OL Reign on March 26 at Audi Field. The club announced earlier this season that all 14 home matches will be played for the first time at the stadium in Buzzard Point.