The U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year shares how she took a dream and turned it into reality.
When you look at Lindsey Horan’s career evolution, it looks a little bit like destiny, but it’s a lot more deliberate than that. It’s more like an intentional course that Horan charted for herself—a dream that matured into a belief, molded into a goal, and carefully chiseled over the years into reality. It’s like she always knew something that everyone else was still figuring out.
Horan started playing soccer at five years old. By 11, she was playing on an elite travel team, and at 18, Horan, already the best youth player in the country, bucked the conventional route. She passed on a scholarship at the University of North Carolina to travel alone to Europe and play with the pros.
In 2021, the 27-year old midfielder was named U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year. Horan’s rise required an immense amount of strength, and it was a journey that reinforced Horan’s self-esteem.
“I think the biggest thing I learned was the belief in myself, the confidence to step out and be me, be Lindsey,” she told Tonal in an exclusive interview. “I think that’s always been my biggest strength, being secure in who I am and standing up for who I am and continuing to do that every single day.”
It’s clear that confidence has always been a driver for Horan. Ever since she saw a teenage Lionel Messi playing for FC Barcelona—a shrine to Messi lived on her childhood bedroom walls—Horan fantasized about playing in Europe and set her sights on the biggest tournaments in the world.
At one point, she told a former coach that she had international aspirations, according to a piece she wrote for The Players’ Tribune in 2018. In the story, she said he laughed. But she knew the path that lie ahead of her. Years later, she was off to Europe to play for Paris Saint-Germain without speaking a lick of French before boarding a one-way flight to France.
Before long, she would come back stateside to join the Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League and was named league MVP in 2018. After six seasons, she sought out a new challenge and returned to the French league in January to play for Olympique Lyonnais, on loan from the Thorns for 18 months.
As Horan’s recognition grows, so does the belief around the globe that she can be the best footballer on any pitch. That’s just one of the reasons why Carli Lloyd passed down her prestigious No. 10 jersey to Horan when she retired from the U.S. Women’s National Team last year. The number is usually worn by a team’s best player–-signaling that Horan is the premier player on the premier team in the world.
“We became really close toward the end of my career,” Lloyd said. “I felt like I was this veteran who could help her, and there was no one better to hand that No. 10 off to than her.”
The gesture symbolized Horan’s readiness to lead the charge for the national team—the path that she had been plotting all along. To do that, she has to stay healthy. Horan said that strength training is an important part of her routine, especially during the off-season. As an attacking midfielder—think of her as a point guard in basketball—she’s a playmaker tasked with sticking the ball in the other team’s net on her own or by setting up her teammates to score.
That’s why she needs to be explosive, fast, and aggressive. “Strength training is probably the most important thing for me now,” she said. “I need to be running from box to box, so I need to keep my endurance up, and I think when you’re at your strongest, you recover well, and you’re able to keep going in the game.”
The national team captain has said that she always held the belief that she could be the best player in the world. Even though Horan has become a power player on the world stage, fear kept her from speaking her goals aloud. Now she’s unafraid to make her intentions known.
“Even if you’ve doubted yourself at points, you need to bring yourself back up, and I think it’s us who can do that,” she said. “It’s not everyone else around you that is going to bring it out of you. Obviously, support is is amazing, but you need to believe in yourself first before you’re able to accomplish anything.”