AFC Ann Arbor soccer teen has lofty career goals

Published: May. 23, 2022, 8:00 a.m.
Chloe Ricketts, 14, is the youngest player to ever play for AFC Ann Arbor's women's soccer team.
(Greg Wickliffe |

ANN ARBOR – Chloe Ricketts isn’t shy about her aspirations for her soccer career.

“It’s a really high (aspiration) but I would like to be the best (player) in the world someday,” Ricketts told MLive during an interview last week. “Play on the national team, go overseas and play someday.”

At only 15 years old, Ricketts, a Dexter native, is the youngest player to ever play for AFC Ann Arbor’s women’s soccer team and has already made an immediate impact on the squad in her first professional season. Ricketts scored the team’s first goal in their first contest in their new league the USL Women’s League earlier this month, showcasing the potential she already possesses at a young age. In fact, Ricketts’ goal was so impressive, she earned Goal of the Week from the USLW.

And while Ricketts is young and still learning the game at the professional level, AFC Ann Arbor head coach Boyzzz Khumalo already can see the player Ricketts can become. “From what I’ve seen from Chole, she’s a good player,” Khumalo said. “Still young, of course. She’s doing well for us. She likes to go at people. She’s very skillful. She’s a very special player and we are lucky to have her.
Khumalo noticed Ricketts during a youth soccer game three years ago when she played on the Michigan Tigers boys team and knew she was a player he wanted to pursue for a spot on the roster.
Bilal Saaed, AFC Ann Arbor’s Chairperson, connected with Ricketts’ family, and she was brought in for a tryout, to the teenager’s surprise.

“Honestly, like any 14-year-old girl, "I was like, Oh my goodness. I’m 14, this is so cool. The environment is gonna be awesome and the jerseys are sweet,” Ricketts said. “I was freaking out. I’ve always watched AFC as a little kid, ever since I was seven. To be here now is a dream come true. At such a young age, it was mind-blowing to
Fifteen-year-old Chloe Ricketts, center, scored AFC Ann Arbor's first goal of the season this month and is the youngest player to ever play for the team. (Photo provided by Josh Boland) Josh Boland

While Ricketts’ tryout was far from easy, there was a lot that AFC liked about her game to bring her aboard. “I was like, ʻMan, who is that girl? We should get her on our team when we get our women’s team going,’” Khumalo recalls the first time he watched Ricketts play. “We did some research and followed her, talked to a couple of people. “She’s a local girl. I’m very big on having local girls because this is a pathway for them to the next level depending on where they want to go.”

Where Ricketts wants to go is to the very top of the sport. Though it’s a tall task, Ricketts has been putting in the work to make her goal a reality. In addition to playing AFC, which has multiple international players, including Canadian gold medalist Jayde Riviere, Ricketts has practiced with U.S. national players Catarina Macario and Jaelin Howell. She was also invited to the U.S. Youth National Team Regional Identification Center, and she helped her youth girls team to the Elite Club National League Finals and helped guide her boys youth team to the Michigan State Cup. Her aunt, Whitney, played for the University of Michigan and her father, Kad, also played soccer so the younger Ricketts appeared destined to fall in love with the game. I sucked when I first started (playing soccer),” Ricketts said. “I just really love soccer. I don’t know how to explain the feeling I get when I play. It’s just awesome. I love this sport so much and I wouldn’t want to live life without it.”

Ricketts aspirations are lofty, but for Khumalo, he wouldn’t expect anything different from a player with her potential. “I definitely think she does have the potential,” Khumalo said. “It’s good for players to think that way. If she has those dreams, our job is to help her to achieve those dreams by her coming to practice and making sure we challenge her.” Khumalo added he doesn’t believe there is pressure on Ricketts and only wants to continue helping her grow as a professional. “I don’t think there’s pressure here,” Khumalo said. “Everybody is welcoming. We’ve got a lot of people from different countries, so for me, I think it’s good for her to learn from some of these players and for some of the players to look at her and try to teach her some of the basics about the game and stuff on and off the field.”

Regardless of what Ricketts does in the future, achieving the goal of playing for AFC Ann Arbor is already something she will never forget. “It means a lot to me,” Ricketts said. “I’m going to be able to tell my kids this story. All my family is so excited for me. To have fans come and watch me play is surreal.”