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  • Writer's pictureOliver Hunt

Lauren Barnes: Journey to 200 Caps

OL Reign captain and living legend Lauren Barnes became the first player in the NWSL to reach 200 caps. Barnes has been with the Reign for her entire NWSL career, which began with the inception of the league in 2013.

"200 with one club, I couldn't be more proud, " Barnes spoke in the post-game after a win her 200th match.

Lu Barnes, Captain and Defender, celebrating her 200th regular season game after a 2-1 win against Kansas City on June 10, 2023 | Photo Credit to OL Reign/Jane Gershovich

Barnes was part of the starting lineup in the very first Reign match and has since played all of her 200 NWSL caps with Seattle. Barnes has played in 200 of the club’s 214 matches and has helped the team secure 58 of their 62 clean sheets over the years.

Her teammates have referred to her as a leader, and a pivotal player for the team. And while Barnes likes to shy away from attention, her teammates had other plans.

"This was an important day for us, our main topic of conversation going into the game was Lu," defender Sofia Huerta said, "You know this was an important game, she's been such a good leader for the Reign and impactful player throughout her eleven years, that's such an accomplishment"

As Barnes reaches this incredible milestone, it’s a great time to look back at her remarkable career and all the ways she’s changed the game in her time with the Reign.

Rocky Beginnings

During her collegiate career, she made a name for herself starting nearly every game during her four-year stint at UCLA. Her list of accolades goes on but from the start, Barnes has held it down in the back as a stalwart defender.

Defender Lauren Barnes scored the game-winning goal in UCLA’s 2-0 victory over Washington State at Drake Stadium on November 1, 2010.

After graduating in 2010, Barnes joined the Women’s Professional Soccer, the professional league that proceeded the NWSL. She was picked up by the Philadelphia Independence in the WPS draft, being selected in the third round and fifteenth overall.

Barnes never made an on-the-pitch appearance for the Independence though, she instead sat on the bench for nine games. The WPS folded at the end of the season before Barnes ever set foot on the field, leaving her future uncertain.

Consistency in the NWSL and Abroad

When the NWSL came to be in 2013, Barnes was picked up by the Reign, which was then called the Seattle Reign. She was one of two players to play in every game that season, and the only player for the Reign to start every match, ending the year with 1,949 minutes.

Barnes continued to show up big time for the Reign, playing 22 matches in the following 2014 season when they won the Shield for the first time. Barnes has never started less than eighteen matches in a season, and she was a starter in every game she played across five different seasons, including her most recent 2022 season.

Lauren Barnes and the Reign celebrating winning the NWSL Shield in 2015 | Photo Credit to OL Reign

But Barnes isn’t just an NWSL legend, earning playing time with several other clubs during her career. Barnes often spends time in other leagues, leaving the United States during the NWSL offseason to give herself a full year of soccer.

She played in Australia for Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory for many years, oftentimes alongside her OL Reign teammate, Jess Fishlock. Achieving greatness outside the NWSL, Barnes has been named Melbourne City W-League Player of the Year and has been part of the Professional Footballers Australia W-League Team of the Year.

Lauren Barnes playing for Melbourne City in Australia

In 2020 when the NWSL season was shorter due to Covid, Barnes looked towards Europe like many other American players. She ended up in Sweden, playing a year with Kristianstads DFF and making 11 appearances for them.

Accolades on and off the field

Earning 200 caps is a fitting accomplishment for Barnes to add to her long list of NWSL accomplishments. During her time in the league, Barnes has seen the Reign to three NWSL Shields and was the 2016 NWSL defensive player of the year.

In addition to the most caps, she also holds the league record for the most games started, and the most minutes played all time with over 16,000. Not to mention being named to both the best and second best IX twice. She’s one of just five players to have been with a club for every season, consistently showing up for the Reign. She’s the anchor in their backline and an incredible athlete.

Outside of her exceptional moments on the pitch, Barnes has also dedicated her time to making an impact off the field. Barnes is very passionate about the community efforts taken by the Reign, leading the charge to make their locker room more sustainable.

She pressed the club to invest in reusable towels and partnered with a local organization to refill their soap instead of constantly going through new packaging. Her teammates speak highly of her always, praising her strong leadership and sense of dedication toward this team both on and off the field.

The Reign recently extended Barnes’ contract until 2025, ensuring that their veteran leader will be with them for as long as she continues to lace up her cleats. A leader and a true quality player, OL Reign fans are lucky to have the legendary Lauren “Lu” Barnes on their team.


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