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Amanda Allen has always dreamed of playing soccer professionally. And the teenager isn’t wasting any time making it a reality.

The forward from Mississauga who turned 18 on Feb. 21, has signed a three-year contract with the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League.

“I really did just want to get going,” Allen said. “I’ve been wanting to go pro since I was young. … It was a pretty difficult decision, yes, but I think I made the right one.”

Allen, who has already won one international cap at the senior level, is in camp with sixth-ranked Canada this week ahead of an April 11 friendly with No. 5 France in Le Mans. She is also expected to see action with the Canadian under-20 team which takes part in qualifying later this month for the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship, scheduled for May 24 to June 3 in the Dominican Republic.

Allen helped the Canadian under-17 team qualify for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup last October in India, where she started all three games and scored a goal.

Canada coach Bev Priestman says the teenager reminds her of a young Janine Beckie.

“She had a really good run for the under-17s,” Priestman said last week in announcing her roster for the April international window. “Again you talk about the future Janine-type player, I think Amanda Allen has an engine and a similar profile. It’s just how soon will she be able and ready, but the door again is open there.”

Haley Carter, Orlando’s vice-president of soccer operations and GM, sees Allen as a good fit in a franchise looking to take care of the future while aiming to excel in the present.

“She is a young talent but it’s clear to us, it’s clear to Bev, everyone in the Canadian program, that her ceiling is tremendously high,” Carter said.

“Yes it’s pro sports so we need to drive and get results right away,” Carter added. “But Seb [coach Seb Hines] and I and the rest of the staff really prioritize the development of players. That’s something that historically the league has struggled with.”

Orlando isn’t the only NWSL team looking to acquire young talent. The San Diego Wave and Washington Spirit each signed 15-year-olds in March in forward Melanie Barcenas and midfielder Chloe Ricketts, respectively.

Angel City FC made 18-year-old forward Alyssa Thompson the youngest draft pick in NWSL history, taking her first overall in the January draft. Thompson elected to turn pro immediately rather than attend Stanford.

Portland signed 15-year-old midfielder Olivia Moultrie in June, 2021.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that we’re moving in that direction,” Carter said of signing such teens. “I think it’s a reflection of the direction that professional women’s sports in general, not just soccer, is heading.”

And while “age is just a number,” Carter says teams have an obligation to nurture such young talent off the field as well as on it.

Carter, a former player, coach and U.S. Marine, says she looks forward to working with Canada Soccer “to ensure that we’re all on the same page and aligned with her development and what’s best for her long-term.”

“Canada is going to have an exceptional talent moving forward,” added Hines.

Allen made her senior international debut in November, coming off the bench in the 71st minute in a 2-1 win over Brazil in Santos.

She joins fellow Canadian Jordyn Listro, a midfielder, on the Orlando roster. Former Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod, now with a team in Iceland, was with the Pride from 2022 to 2022.

Allen says she chose Orlando after meeting the staff and players.

“it just felt like the right environment and the right time,” she said.

Allen, who won the League1 Ontario title last year with Canada Soccer’s NDC Ontario developmental team, looked at attending Syracuse University before deciding to go straight to the pro ranks.

Allen describes herself as an attack-minded player who loves to take on defenders.

“Even at such a young age, she has the ability to dribble and drive past defenders. And the confidence as well,” Hines said. “She’s showed already in our environment that she plays with no fear.”

Allen grew up a Manchester United fan with Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford as favourite players to watch.

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