Whitham, 13, scores preseason game winner for NJ/NY Gotham

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Thirteen-year-old soccer phenom McKenna "Mak" Whitham on Tuesday scored the last-minute winning goal as a nonroster invitee for NJ/NY Gotham FC in a preseason tournament in Colombia.

She is the youngest player ever to score a goal for a National Women's Soccer League club.

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Whitham's goal comes just one week after she signed a name, image and likeness deal with Nike, making her the youngest women's soccer player and youngest athlete in any sport to sign an NIL deal.

Prior to the match, Whitham told ESPN she had no idea she'd get playing time.

But at the 60-minute mark, Gotham FC head coach Juan Carlos Amorós made the decision to sub the 13-year-old forward for veteran Kelley O'Hara.

Whitham said she was "mentally, physically and emotionally" ready and "dialed in."

Seconds before she took the pitch, Whitham said Amorós told her, "We all believe in you. You've been doing great in training. Just have fun."

It was those words, Whitham said, that helped her take the pitch with minimal nerves and maximum excitement.

Right before she scored, Whitham said she was amazed at the play and movements by her teammates leading up to the goal.

"The back heels, the combos, the passing and moving," Whitham said. "I had to be patient. I was calm, just ready to get the ball in. But it's also about just being patient and knowing and having the confidence to just get myself in the top of the box and just finish the ball."

Whitham added that she's most comfortable in that space because that's what she practices the most and where she feels she's "deadly."

Amorós said it was a difficult game with a tough rival.

"They knew the game plan to make it very difficult for us. But we knew we needed to stay calm and the longer the game goes, the more tired they were going to get," Amorós said afterward. "And the final minute goal from Mak was fantastic because obviously she is a special young player we decided to give a chance. We're very happy to see her score the game-winning goal."

Gotham heads into the preseason tournament final on Friday night vs. Racing Louisville after the 1-0 win over Deportivo Cali.

The forward, who is home-schooled, will graduate with the Class of 2028. Whitham plays for the Southern California club team Slammers FC HB Koge and is a member of the U.S. under-15 youth national team.

This past year, she made a name for herself at the club and national level by her ability to score with either foot outside the 18-yard box.

The 13-year-old said the goal is to eventually turn professional and sign a contract with an NWSL club when the opportunity is right.

Should she be offered a contract with an NWSL this season, she will become the league's youngest player but will join a growing group of teens making an impact there. A total of seven players aged 15 to 19 featuring in the NWSL regular season or Challenge Cup in 2023.

Over the past few months, Whitham has joined Kansas City Current, Washington Spirit and NJ/NY Gotham FC for preseason workouts and trainings.