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Fifteen-year-old Chapel Hill native dazzles in pro debut with North Carolina FC

Nicholas Holliday holds a soccer ball at a game. Photo courtesy of Megan O'Keefe/North Carolina FC.

Many young athletes have dreams of going pro, but for 15-year-old goalkeeper Nicholas Holliday, this dream has already become a reality.

The Chapel Hill native made his professional soccer debut with North Carolina FC on June 20, recording 10 saves. Those 10 saves were tied for the most in a USL League One game this season and were the third-most in a single game in league history.

Holliday was raised in a sports environment, playing not only soccer but also basketball, lacrosse and baseball. He landed on soccer after determining that he didn’t like basketball and that the other two sports required a helmet — he doesn’t like to mess up his hair.

The goalkeeper quickly rose through the ranks of NCFC’s youth club alongside his older brother Christopher, who is now a defensive back for UNC’s football team. It didn’t take long for Holliday to realize that he wanted to pursue soccer at a serious level.

“I saw all the people I looked up to and I started watching the World Cup and these big soccer games,” Holliday said. “I know how all the fans love that person, and I want to be like that.”

When he was only 14, Holliday was brought up to the organization’s professional team amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He signed an academy contract, a special agreement for young USL players that allows them to train and compete with a professional team while maintaining college eligibility.

Head coach John Bradford was hopeful about the point that Holliday was at in his career and how he believed he would progress.

“I felt confident, as I've gotten to know Nick, that his personality and competence in himself was going to be enough for him to be able to step into a professional environment and be successful,” Bradford said. 

However, some of the older NCFC players were skeptical when they heard that a boy fresh out of middle school would be joining their team.

“When I heard a 15-year-old kid was coming to the team, you expect him to have a baby face,” 21-year-old defender Nelson Flores said. “You know, someone who is very active, likes to speak, but not Nicholas. He's a great guy. He's very mature for his age. He's very humble.”

Bradford said that while Holliday is humble, he is also confident and has a sense of belief in himself.

“He's confident in terms of being able to build out of the back and play certain passes that might be thought of as risky,” Bradford said. “And the belief in himself is also kind of how he carries himself off the field too.”

Now, the youngest player on the NCFC team is just another teammate. The group respects that he earned his spot and treats him like just another player in the locker room.

Holliday definitely has earned his spot, which he proved in his debut against the Chattanooga Red Wolves.

“It was a really special moment,” Holliday said about stepping on the field for the first time as a professional player. “It’s something I've been dreaming of for a very long time.”

The goalkeeper became the youngest-ever player at an independent club to appear in a League One game, and his 10 saves made for an impressive debut despite his team’s 3-2 loss. Holliday is thankful that he can learn from his more experienced teammates and hopes to use their expertise to better himself.

In honing his skill, Holliday and Bradford alike have high hopes for the player’s future. Bradford believes Holliday can make the U-17 National Team and has his focus set on preparing his player for the 2023 World Cup.

Holliday himself points to making the U.S. National Team as his goal moving forward in his career. Through continuing to be both humble and confident, and by making the most of his opportunity at NCFC, Holliday may very well make it to the highest level of his sport in the near future.


@DTHSports |