When Arizona soccer’s season ended in mid-November, senior forward Charlotte Brascia was prepared to give up her cleats and shinguards for good.
The Las Vegas native figured her playing career, which started when she was just four years old and has been a staple of her life ever since, was over.
And she thought she was OK with that.
“I was ready to be done and finally have some time to be an actual student and not have some sort of schedule every single day,” Brascia said. “But after a while I started to miss it.”
That sentiment became clearer than ever on Jan. 18.
The National Women’s Soccer League draft was underway, and it left Brascia wondering what could have been, as she saw fellow seniors get selected by professional teams across the country, some of whom she had competed against in the Pac-12.
“I had a breakdown that I didn’t try to go that much further,” she said. “I’m not saying I would have been drafted, but it’s more of the fact that I should’ve just done it just to say it that I did.”
Brascia’s dream to play professionally only intensified from there, but she wasn’t sure how to make it come to fruition.
“Who was I going to connect with? Who was I going to talk to about it?” Brascia wondered.
She unexpectedly found her answer in late February.
Brascia was scrolling through Instagram when she saw that her longtime friend Kellie Peay, a former player at Santa Clara and one-time Arizona commit, had signed with Skövde KIK, a Division 1 team in Sweden’s Norra Götaland league.
Peay had entered her name in the NWSL draft but didn’t get selected and, like Brascia, assumed her career was over.
“So I reached out to congratulate her and asked her about the process she went through and she immediately called me and told me all about the opportunity,” Brascia said.
“... She had friends that played for this team and they ended up loving it, so she was like ‘I’m going to do it’.”
Brascia was intrigued, and Peay recommended her to Skövde KIK’s president, Anders Plantin, who’s in charge of recruiting players.
Pretty soon, Brascia and Plantin were FaceTiming for two hours as they discussed a potential signing.
“You’re coming to a completely different country for three months and you’re going to live with a completely different family. Are you ready for that?” Plantin asked Brascia.
Brascia only had a few days to answer that question but, yes, she was. She chose to sign with Skövde KIK, becoming one of five Americans on the team and one of the first Wildcats to ever go pro.
“It happened so fast,” Brascia said.
But it was an easy decision, really.
Her family and Arizona teammates encouraged her to sign, and the allure of playing professionally and living in Europe was appealing for Brascia since she has never ventured outside the United States.
“I don’t really have any concerns,” she said. “I’m pretty open-minded. I’ve always wanted to travel, so I think that’s what led me towards deciding to go. And I honestly I don’t have a job lined up. There really wasn’t anything keeping me here.”
Besides, “the working force really sucks,” Brascia said. “It’s not soccer.”
That soccer is her profession still hasn’t sunk in it.
“I feel like once it starts to come closer, I’ll be like ‘oh my gosh,’” Brascia said. “It’s still insane. I say I’m going to play soccer in Sweden and (everyone’s) like that’s so cool. It feels really good.”
Brascia is set to graduate in May and will head to Skövde — a town of 70,000 that is a two-hour train ride west of Stockholm — toward the end of July, giving her a week to adjust to her new setting before the team begins preparing for the upcoming season.
In the meantime, Brascia will hone her skills similar to the way she would if she had another year at Arizona, participating in the Wildcats’ training sessions and all.
She has even set up a workout schedule with Jim Krumpos, the UA’s strength and conditioning coach.
“It’s essentially the same timeline,” Brascia said. “It’s like I’m going back to college again ... And depending how rusty I am, I’ll train with [assistant coach] Kate [Norton] if necessary.”
In retrospect, Brascia believes heading to Sweden is a better option than the NWSL.
Had she been drafted, she would have had to leave school before graduation since the league’s season begins in March.
“I think what is meant to be is meant to be, and it’s nice that I can finish school and still have the chance to play professionally,” said Brascia, a general studies major.
A 5-foot-11 forward who possesses a unique blend of size and speed, Brascia appeared in nearly every match in her four-year career at Arizona, pouring in seven goals, seven assists, and 91 shots.
The Bishop Gorman product was part of a senior class that won a program-record 45 matches and was the first to reach the NCAA Tournament three times in a four-year span.
Plantin told Brascia that the biggest difference between the competition she’ll face in Sweden and collegiate soccer is the age discrepancy of the players and the aggressive style they play.
“There’s girls that have played on national teams in different countries that come back to play in this league and that have played at this level for years now,” Brascia said. “And I think that’ll kind of be the challenge.”
Brascia believes she is up for it. She is coming off a senior campaign in which she started in every game for the Wildcats, helping them produce arguably their best season in program history.
Brascia tallied a career-high three goals, including a game-winner against Washington.
“I definitely thought my senior year was the greatest I’ve ever played,” she said. “I think it was because it had been three years and it was my last year here. I gotta make the most of it, and I think it showed in a lot of the games.”
Arizona head coach Tony Amato agreed.
“She just has had a new commitment level,” he said in October. “She did the best on the fitness test she’s done in four years, and that’s allowed us to play her more. She’s been in an important role for us.”
Skövde KIK’s season begins in August and could run through late October, depending if it reaches the postseason.
Brascia hopes her stint in Sweden will be the beginning of a long professional career, but right now she’s just grateful for the opportunity.
“It really is a dream come true,” she said. “Whether it works or doesn’t, I can still tell myself that I made it to that level.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire