Katie Scott: The U-17 WYNT's Swiss Army Knife

U.S. Under-17 Women’s National Team defender Katie Scott has driven countless hours to club training, played a myriad of positions for the U.S. Youth National Teams, and is now looking forward to her career highlight so far: playing for her country in a World Cup qualifying tournament.

Katie Scott’s Youth National Team journey started as a 14-year-old in Chula Vista, Calif. It was a long trip for a young girl out of Erie, Pennsylvania as she traveled all the way across the country to her first-ever U.S. Under-15 Women’s Youth National Team training camp.

She didn’t know what was to come, but she had a feeling it was the start of something grand.

Turns out, she was right. Scott is one of 21 players who will represent the USA at the 2024 Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship in Mexico as the USA plays for a berth to the 2024 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. The position she’ll play in the tournament? That’s another story.

Scott has always played right wing or center forward for her club, Internationals SC out of Cleveland, Ohio, but when she was named to the U.S. squad for the 2022 Concacaf Girls’ U-15 Championship in Florida, it was as a midfielder. In that tournament, which the USA not only won but swept five games over an eight-day period, she played a bit of right wing but also saw time at defensive midfield and right back.

That sort of positional switcheroo could have been disconcerting for such a young player. Not for Scott. Her favorite position is “on the field,” and she has embraced all opportunities to play for her country. The chance to learn the nuances of playing in different parts of the field was a positive for the kid from the banks of Lake Erie.

“I never thought it was a bad thing, or was frustrated or anything,” said Scott, who scored – from right back – against Jamaica at that U-15 Concacaf tournament. “I’ve always been a player who will do what they can to help the team. The coaches were super positive and helpful, and I appreciate them believing in me to try to at different positions. We trust our coaches and we know they care about us as people and players.

“These girls on our team are special. All the experiences we’ve gone through over the past two years have made us stronger. We’re kind of like a family, we’re all so close.”
Scott at the 2022 Concacaf Girls' U-15 Championship

As she played more right back, Scott came to realize something that she didn’t expect: she could be MORE involved in the game from that position.

Most young people – heck, most soccer players – would love to be playing forward. Scott appreciates the art and grit of defense.

“I really enjoy playing up front, but sometimes you feel like you’re waiting for the game to come to you,” said Scott. “At outside back, I feel like I can contribute more. I can constantly be alert and defending, but also get up the flank to try to help score goals. I just feel more involved and that’s fun.”

Scott plays her club soccer in Cleveland, Ohio, as Internationals SC are the closest ECNL club to her hometown. That means she makes a two-hour drive to training each way and it’s a commute she sometimes does three times a week, not counting the matches on the weekends.

“With all that driving and travel, I’m so fortunate to have amazing teachers and administrators at Fairview High School that have been so flexible and allowed me to follow my dreams,” said Scott. “It’s been a grind, but it’s one that I love.”

That’s some supreme dedication, but her desire to reach her full potential as a person and a player has driven her – literally – to make that kind of sacrifice since she was eight years old.

Scott credits much of her competitive mentality to her family: her dad, Nick, a former collegiate soccer player at Penn State; her mom, Karen, who was a gymnast for the Nittany Lions; and her three soccer-playing older brothers, Nick, Will and Zach.

When he was in high school, her brother Nick, whom Katie calls her “best friend and training partner,” left Erie to join the Columbus Crew Academy (he now plays for UNC-Charlotte after a stint at Akron University). The little sister was devastated to lose her buddy – who is also a right back – a brother who always put tremendous importance on her growth and learning with countless hours of training, tips and support. In the end, Nick’s departure for Columbus turned out to be a great life lesson for young Katie. She saw someone chasing their soccer dreams despite the challenges. She would do that as well.
Katie and her brothers - Nick, Will and Zach

“Everyone knows the younger sister with three older brothers, that’s going to be a girl who is going to fight and scrap and try to keep up with them,” said Scott, who grew up playing with boys. “So, I think from a young age, I’ve had to be more mature and that has hopefully helped me become a leader on my teams. I know when I was 14 coming into National Team camp, I was not always comfortable. I was nervous and stressed, but I don’t feel that way now, and I hope I can help translate that feeling of confidence to other players.”

So to recap: Scott has always primarily played winger or striker for her club, she has played defensive midfielder and outside back and winger for the National Team and was recruited to Penn State -- she’s a legacy, after all -- as a box-to-box midfielder or an attacking midfielder, positions she’ rarely played.

Is there any position she can’t play? Probably goalkeeper, as she is 5-foot-3, but she’s a 5-foot-3 fireplug of an athlete, packed with some Emily Fox-esque qualities with a few Julie Ertz-isms thrown in. Her ball-striking is exquisite, and her tackling often leaves a mark.

Scott will probably see most of her minutes at the 2024 Concacaf U-17 Championship at right back, and that suits this intense competitor just fine.

“I get a lot of adrenaline playing defense,” said Scott, who reclassified, will graduate from high school early, and enter Penn State for summer school in June. “When it’s the end of the game and it’s close and you have to keep fighting to get that result, that’s what we work for. Being in a situation where we’ve got a lead and we need to stop our opponents to help our team win, that’s something I really love.”

Scott heads into U-17 World Cup qualifying with a good amount of international experience for her age. She played in that Concacaf U-15 tournament, won a tournament in France last year with the U.S. U-16 WYNT and faced off against perennial youth power Japan last September in California, matches that the USA tied and won. That experience gives her and her teammates confidence.

Scott training with the U-17 WYNT leading up to the 2024 Concacaf Women's U-17 Championship

“The Under-15 Concacaf tournament was really cool because we grew throughout the five games,” said Scott, who is one of 11 players from that squad on this U-17 World Cup qualifying team. “In the final against Canada, we came together and we played our best. The intensity -- it was a final -- was off the charts. We knew that was the moment we’d be working for all year and after only beating them 1-0 in group, to put in that kind of performance was awesome. [The USA won, 4-1.] None of us had ever been away from home for three weeks on a soccer trip so that was totally new. We had to deal with being a little homesick, with the intensity of the games and little rest between games. It was a really good learning experience for all of us.”

Now Scott looks forward to the next phase of her young career, representing the United States in a World Cup qualifying tournament. It’s a challenge she relishes.

“It means everything to be able to represent my country, especially with this group of girls,” said Scott. “From when I started playing soccer, this was always a goal. Nick inspired me, my family inspired me and my coaches at Internationals get a lot of credit for creating a positive environment for me to grow and prepare me for college and for playing for the National Team. I’m just so lucky to play for my country and I want to make all those people proud.”

Katie, you already have.