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Analysis: Is teenage Ajax sensation Lily Yohannes ready to contribute for the USWNT?

The 16-year-old midfielder zoomed into the spotlight during the Champions League group stage. Can she handle the big time at the SheBelieves Cup?

5 min read

Be honest: had you heard of Lily Yohannes before November 15, 2023? 

I’m big enough to admit that I hadn’t. The 16-year-old midfielder had only been a full professional for a few months when she was named to Ajax’s starting eleven in their first Champions League group game. Yohannes instantly became the youngest American, male or female, to appear in a Champions League match, and the youngest player ever to start in the Champions League group stage, full stop. 

She announced herself with haste.

The first touch that gets pulled forward as she turns in stride, shielding the ball from an oncoming Korbin Albert, and the pinpoint through ball which will eventually lead to a goal — it’s what you expect from a central midfielder far more advanced in years. Yohannes makes it look easy, two years before high school graduation. 

What happens after graduation is on the minds of many. The American-born daughter of Eritrean immigrants, who has spent the last seven years in the Netherlands, has options for senior international duty. The Netherlands hope that she acquires a Dutch passport and plays for them. The U.S. has selected her for a few youth camps, and is making a big play for her by inviting her to the senior team for the SheBelieves Cup this weekend.

You can quickly see why both nations would be vying for her services.

But what is Yohannes right now? And what could she contribute to the USWNT, if not for the Olympics then for the preparations for the 2027 World Cup? 

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