Four USWNT players leave NWSL for England’s WSL

The WSL provides more games and stability for four USWNT players.

This year has been anything but normal for women’s soccer in the United States. In place of a regular season, the NWSL held the Challenge Cup tournament back in June as a way for NWSL players to get games in an isolated environment.

Though the tournament was for the most part successful, in the end it featured 8 teams instead of 9 after some Orlando players and staff tested positive for COVID-19, and it hardly provided enough games for players to remain game fit throughout the year.

This lack of games is particularly challenging for national team players that have the Olympic games to prepare for next summer (for that matter many of them need games just to ensure their name makes the final Olympic roster).

Sam Mewis was the first to make the transition to the WSL (Women’s Super League), England’s top league for women’s soccer. Mewis signed with Manchester City, a side that finished a shortened 2019-2020 season in second place, after losing out on the number one spot to Chelsea (who had one less point but had played one less game).

Rose Lavelle soon followed, signing with Manchester City as well. Lavelle and Mewis are both best friends and teammates, and will no doubt be a formidable pair in the midfield. The already strong Manchester City side features a number of top English internationals, so with the addition of Lavelle and Mewis, they should once more be competing for the league title this season.

Manchester United, however, was not about to let City be the only Manchester team to snag talented USWNT players in the transfer window. With the end of the transfer window swiftly approaching, Tobin Heath signed with United followed by Christen Press. Both are strikers with unique skill sets and plenty of experience playing on the biggest world stages.

As it turns out, the NWSL decided to launch the NWSL Fall Series to complete this makeshift season. The games began September 5 and will continue over the next month seeing the teams playing in three, three-team pods intended to limit the amount of travel required for games.

Even with these additional games, the appeal of a new challenge abroad participating in a normal league season with some of the world’s best players was far too strong for these four women.

COVID-19 has presented these players with a rare opportunity to explore their options elsewhere, options they likely wouldn’t have looked to pursue in a normal setting. For proven USWNT players who don’t need to remain in the US market to make the USWNT roster, the idea of reaching higher for the world’s best leagues and strongest teams has to be appealing. The question is, now that they’ve spread their wings, will they return, or is the fruit they’ve tasted too sweet to resist?