Teenager nets US sports scholarship

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A Wigan teenager is jetting off across the pond to accept a sports scholarship from a top American university.

Rachael Lee was headhunted by Parkland College in Illinois, just a short drive away from Chicago, to play for their successful women’s football team.

The young athlete plays as a goalkeeper and has spent time between the sticks for Wigan Athletic, before spending two years at the Liverpool FC Foundation Football College, which she graduated from last month.

She will now fly out to Parkland College in the next two weeks to compete in the top division of the National Junior College Athletics Association, with their sports team called the Cobras.

And the 18-year-old’s path to success has been long in the making.

“I started playing football in primary school, with all the lads,” Rachael said.

“They used to always put the girls in net, and I just stuck with it.”

The Standish teenager signed for Latics when she was in year six, and her ambitions began to grow after discovering that a female footballer’s prospects were much more promising in the States.

Rachael said: “It was something I wanted to do since I was 15.

“I always got told about big opportunities over there, and that women’s football was bigger in America.

“So I’ve always wanted to go abroad and go to new places, so I started talking to the colleges.”

And when not playing “soccer,” Rachael will be studying for a Major in mathematics.

“It’s one of my backup careers,” she said.

“If playing football doesn’t work out, I might go into coaching, because primarily I want to do something in sport.”

And despite the huge void between women’s football in the US and the UK, Rachael was confident that the gap would close before long.

“I do think it will get better in the UK, but it will take longer.

“In the US, they are able to fill entire stadiums for women’s football, so there’s a big gap. But it is growing over here.”

The USA is regarded as one of the top countries in the world for women’s football.

The US ladies’ national team is currently ranked as the number one team in the world by FIFA, the England national team trailing not too far behind in fifth.