The brightest star in US women’s soccer is moving to the big leagues, according to Grant Wahl on Twitter last night, who first broke the news that Mallory Pugh was going pro.
SI: Mallory Pugh is turning pro, leaving UCLA. Story to come on https://t.co/5rBd4yJSew.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) April 18, 2017
The young phenom has decided to leave UCLA to pursue an opportunity at the professional level, according to SI.com, leaving many to wonder just where she’ll end up.
Pugh, who started school at UCLA in January, was set to play in her first season with the Bruins this fall. Her future at UCLA was originally unclear, as there was talk that she would forego her full athletic scholarship to sign with the Portland Thorns ahead of the 2017 season. Now, it is unclear where Pugh will end up and if that will even be in the NWSL.
The news of Pugh turning pro was welcomed by excited Washington Spirit fans, as the Spirit currently hold the top spot in the Distribution Ranking Order after offseason trades with the Orlando Pride and the Boston Breakers. And, according to NWSL rules, they will have first dibs on Pugh if she chooses to come to the NWSL. But Washington is not a preferred spot for Pugh, and the Thorns are currently the most likely team in the NWSL to land the 18-year-old.
If Portland wants to sign Pugh, one would think it would cost quite a lot. But if there is any team in the league that can afford it, the Thorns are that team. With five US national team players and five internationals, the Spirit could receive a quality player or players in exchange for either the first crack at Pugh or her rights after being taken by the Spirit. With a lack of depth at the forward and midfield positions, and two injuries suffered this past opening weekend, a trade like this could really improve the Spirit’s chances at success this season.
Then there is always the option of going to play in Europe. Pugh could follow in the footsteps of fellow national team stars Crystal Dunn and Carli Lloyd and head to the FA Women’s Super League in England. Or she could follow Alex Morgan to France to play for Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain. This seems like the more logical place for Pugh to go, especially if she is looking for the money.
Fellow national team star Lindsey Horan was the first American to forego college to play professionally. Horan turned down the opportunity to play for famed women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance at the University of North Carolina, choosing instead to play at PSG. Five years later, Horan is now playing for the Thorns and making a name for herself on the senior national team.
It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out. Will Pugh head to Europe to play in the Champions League and earn more money? Or will she stay in the States and be the next superstar of the NWSL? Only time will tell.