“Soccer is fun. When you’re good at it, it’s fun. But when you’re competitive, it’s even more fun.” This is the quote that stuck with me most as I chatted briefly with Croix Bethune, the Washington Spirit’s No. 1 draft pick.
As we look to follow her through her rookie season in the NWSL, both with our words and her own, one trait that shines through with her is an unwavering self-confidence. In the best way possible, there is not a single moment where Croix Bethune doesn’t think she’s an amazing player. There is a certain level of audacity she possesses that can only come from the family she has, the journey she’s taken to get to this point, and a deep sense of knowing about one’s self; that is beyond twenty two years of age. This characteristic, mixed in with humility and some Southern manners [she says ‘yes ma’am’, ‘no ma’am’] makes Croix one of the most compelling rookies in the league.
“I started playing at three or four. My parents put me in a bunch of sports, but soccer stuck.” Bethune was born in the States, but moved to England with her family around the age of five, and remained there for four years. During her time in England, she began playing soccer with boys, due to there being no girls team.
“I feel like this will be said a lot, but when we moved to England, they didn’t have any girls teams, so I played with boys, until they eventually got a girls team. When we moved back [to the States], soccer, it kind of stuck with me. Playing with boys really helped my development early, to where when moving back, playing was natural, like a breeze.”
“A breeze” is one way many would describe Croix Bethune’s style of play on the pitch. Throughout her college career, first at the University of Southern California, then at the University of Georgia, she has an ease on the ball that few possess in U.S. soccer. She’s creative, audacious and fearless in a way that is enviable. She has often been regarded as one of the best young players in the country, and it was widely speculated that she would go high in the loaded 2024 NWSL Draft. I asked Bethune a bit about her feelings leading up to that night, where she was selected 3rd overall by the Washington Spirit, their first pick of the night.
“I was a little anxious. At the end of the day, you never know, and I didn’t know where I was going to end up.” Bethune was able to get to California a bit early, with her parents and other supporters in tow, and by the day of the draft, she felt it was a full-circle moment that she was able to take in. Once drafted, Bethune was treated like a star signing, whisked away to do an interview with The Attacking Third, before rejoining the mixed zone to give an on the spot interview to multiple journalists.
As one of those journalists, I can tell you this: she commanded the space like she had been a pro for several years.
I asked Bethune if she felt pressure being such a high draft pick. “It felt good to be drafted high, to be wanted. If there is pressure, then pressure is a good thing. I love pressure, I eat it up!”
This is who Croix Bethune is, and going into a team with a new coach, many new and young players, and a playing style unlike anything most Spirit players have seen, she will need every bit of that confidence, that self-belief, to make her way through her first professional season.
Bethune is now well into her first weeks of preseason camp with the Spirit. The days are long and the environment is new, but she does know players on the team. “In the rookie class, I know McKenna, Kate and Hal. And I know Tara McKeown, she played at USC.”
Having familiar faces around helps with adjustment, but Croix Bethune isn’t new to changes. She’s lived on her own, and is ready to explore D.C, and is excited to tackle the new tiki taka playing style that new coach Jonatan Giraldez will likely implement. “I really like Brazilian football. The way they play is closest to how I play, so it feels like it’ll be a smooth transition.” She names Ronaldo Nazário, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Marta as players she admired, which aligns with her excitement about playing in this new system.
Bethune is working hard and still looking to improve parts of her game. “Nobody’s perfect,” she says cheekily. It takes a moment for her to commit when I ask her where she wants to improve her game, but I was able to get “maybe the physical part and spacing.” out of her. In the end, she just wants to work hard every day, and get better for her and her teammates. And when she does score her first goal, because I’ve learned in our brief time together not to doubt her, she says her celebration will simply come to her. “Whatever comes to me. A dance move, or maybe flex on ‘em, ya know.”
As we walk with her through her first year in the league, expect to see a lot of grit, a lot of artistry, and a lot of earned confidence that will make her teammates, her coaches and the fans excited to see her shine. Croix Bethune is absolutely ready for the world, and the world is ready too.