A few days after securing her college diploma on the East Coast, Katie Bowen migrated to the Midwest to join her first professional soccer club.
Within two weeks, she made her FC Kansas City debut. A week later, she earned her first start.
They were noteworthy accomplishments.
Well, for most.
Bowen, however, arrived with a track record. By the time she stepped onto the field for her first professional game, she was already a two-time World Cup veteran.
“Katie came out of college, but she already had the knowledge of the next-level game,” FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “She’s played with and against the best players in the world. Her knowledge of the game in that sense put her on a different level.”
Bowen, 22, made her first World Cup in 2011, representing her home country of New Zealand when she was just 17 years old. She was invited back for the 2015 FIFA World Cup last summer.
So when she fell to the 16th slot in the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League draft, Andonovski called the pick a no-brainer. And true to form, it hasn’t taken her long to fit in.
She spent the preseason with FC Kansas City during her spring break at North Carolina, where she played for one of the most prominent NCAA Division I programs. After returning to Chapel Hill to finish her degree, she traveled back to Kansas City earlier this month.
She was penciled in as the starting left back after a little more than two weeks.
“I had a bit of a late start, but that’s one of the reasons why I came here — these coaches were fine with me finishing school first,” Bowen said. “But coming in, I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself — I just wanted to play my game, and I was confident that I would get good time on the field.”
Bowen has played a variety of positions over the past several seasons, both for the New Zealand national team and while at North Carolina. She has spent time at outside back, center back and all the positions within the midfield.
“She can pretty much jump in anywhere and help us,” Andonovski said. “She’s very, very good tactically.”
The fundamentals helped Bowen make the early impression on her national team. She was 14 years old when she first entered the New Zealand national team system, playing on the Under-17 team.
After featuring in each of the past two World Cups, she is a near lock to be selected to the New Zealand roster for the 2016 Olympics in Rio later this summer.
“They are the biggest tournaments for women’s (soccer), so being able to play there is like a dream come true,” Bowen said. “You couldn’t wish for more.”