- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Lindsey Horan has no regrets about her chosen path to the U.S. national team.

The 21-year-old midfielder made the unusual decision to skip college soccer and play professionally overseas for several years. Although this is fairly common on the men’s side of the sport - Landon Donovan is just one of many elite players who have bypassed college - it is nearly unheard of for women.

Now back stateside, Horan is diplomatic when it comes to her choice, which might become more common for women with the expansion of the U.S. development system.

“I just think it was the best first for me,” Horan said. “It’s not for everyone, but with my style of play and where I was at, at the time, I think going to play professionally suited me and I don’t regret anything at all.”

Growing up in Colorado, Horan was a soccer prodigy as a kid and joined her club team before she was a teenager - eventually forgoing her high school’s soccer team.

She also was a standout on the U.S. youth national teams, scoring 15 goal in 17 appearances with the under-17 team. She helped the under-20 team reach that level’s World Cup in 2012, but had to miss the tournament because of knee surgery.

Horan was among the top college prospects in soccer and was offered a scholarship to play for North Carolina. Instead, she surprised many by taking a reported six-figure deal to play in France for Paris Saint-Germain.

She didn’t even know French.

“It was just what I’d wanted in my heart,” she said. “I’d dreamt of playing professionally since I was 15, that’s the route I took.”

Horan was successful with PSG, scoring 53 goals in 75 appearances from 2012-15. The club released her in January of this year so that she could return to the United States - a move that is making it possible for Horan to try and earn a spot on the Olympic roster.

After making her national team debut back in 2013 for the Algarve Cup in Portugal, Horan was called up by coach Jill Ellis for victory tour matches following the U.S. win in the World Cup last summer. She then made the team’s Olympic qualifying roster - and the United States played its way to Rio at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament last month in Texas.

Ellis has moved Horan from her traditional role at striker to the center midfield as the team adjusts to the absence of Lauren Holiday, who retired at the end of last year. Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Laurie Chalupny also retired from the team that won the World Cup, giving opportunity to younger players like Horan.

“I think Lindsey’s range of passing, I’ve said it before, is exceptional. Her vision, short or long passes, I think is very, very good,” Ellis said. “I think it (the move to midfield) was predicated by need, and then seeing if she could do it. And obviously the defensive side is different for her. But already in training and in some of the games, she’s aggressive. She’s willing to do the work.”

Horan has been developing chemistry with fellow center-mid and friend Morgan Brian, also an alum of the youth system.

“Coming into it, playing a new position, it was hard for me at first, but I think with these players and playing with someone that I’ve played with for so long, I’m really comfortable,” Horan said. “And now, after so many games with these players, you get to know each player and how they play.”

Horan is on the roster for the team’s SheBelieves Cup, a four-team international tournament that kicks off Thursday in Tampa, Florida. The top-ranked U.S. women will be joined by No. 2 Germany, No. 3 France and No. 5 England for the inaugural event. Matches are also scheduled for Nashville, Tennessee, and Boca Raton, Florida.

Horan also will be busy with her new team, the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League, who secured her rights as part of the deal that sent national team star Alex Morgan to the expansion Orlando Pride. Horan joins fellow allocated players Meghan Klingenberg and Tobin Heath in Portland.

“Lindsey is a very intelligent player who brings special qualities on and off the field,” Thorns coach Mark Parsons said. “Her passing range and creativity combined with her ability to score all types of goals will be important to the attacking style we will play.”

Horan says she’s been approached by other young women asking her opinion on going pro early. She tries to present both sides, emphasizing that her choice isn’t for everyone. It just worked for her.

“I try to give as much advice as I possibly can, but I don’t want to be biased in going one way or another,” she said. “I just give the logistics of everything, and I’m happy to help anyone that is thinking of it.”

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