USWNT Player Mallory Pugh Could Turn To Europe Instead Of NWSL After Turning Pro
Mallory Pugh, the most "coveted teenager in U.S. women’s soccer, has decided to turn pro and leave UCLA before she ever played a game there," according to Grant Wahl of SI.com. Sources said that the Portland Thorns are one of Pugh’s "preferred destinations in the NWSL." However, other sources said that destinations in France, including Lyon and PSG, also are "in play if Pugh was not satisfied with what the NWSL was willing to offer." The Washington Spirit have the "first crack at Pugh through the league’s allocation process," but that club is "not a preferred destination for Pugh" (SI.com, 4/18). Pugh's potential move to France comes as the N.Y. POST's Hannah Withiam noted there is a "jarring trend of America’s most accomplished and marketable" women's soccer players being "lured away to play professionally in the relative luxury of Europe." Current USWNT players Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn and Carli Lloyd, as well as former USWNT player Heather O’Reilly, this year have "departed to the women’s clubs of soccer behemoths across the ocean." The absences of those players from the NWSL potentially could "kneecap a league that hinges on grassroots fan engagement." American players "spurned the resource-challenged NWSL for the appeal of playing for higher salaries" and having "access to the world-class facilities and professional environments adjacent to Champions League clubs." NWSL loyalists "won’t deny a wave of panic swept through the league as each player announced she was signing a contract elsewhere." Sky Blue FC President & GM Tony Novo said, "Initially it was like, ‘OK, what’s really going on here?’" However, Novo added, "I don’t see more players going abroad on a regular basis. Our league continues to get stronger, and if you want to play at the top level, this is the best league right now in the world to play in" (N.Y. POST, 4/16).