Mallory Pugh has signed with U.S. Soccer to play in the NWSL and she will suit up for the Washington Spirit. The deal is a coup for the league, which made signing the 19-year-old starlet a priority as soon as she announced she was foregoing college soccer to turn pro.
Pugh already has 22 caps for the United States and became the youngest American to ever score at an Olympics when she found the back of the net at the 2016 Games. She’s been a fixture with the U.S. ever since and there was talk she would skip college more than a year ago. However, she originally decided to enroll at UCLA, attending classes in the winter, but changed her mind last month and dropped out to play professionally.
No young American has more hype than Pugh, who drew interest not just from NWSL, but also teams abroad. Olympique Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain were reportedly interested in signing her, making the competition for her signature stiff. And while Pugh appeared most interested in staying in the U.S., multiple reports indicated that she didn’t want to play for the Washington Spirit, who had the top pick in the league’s distribution order.
The Spirit have had a rocky existence, with constant roster turnover and controversial ownership. It’s not exactly surprising that Pugh reportedly preferred to play elsewhere, especially when MLS-backed clubs like the Portland Thorns and Houston Dash could provide top-notch facilities and support.
However, U.S. Soccer, which pays the salaries of national teamers in NWSL, and the league were intent on keeping the brightest young American in the American league. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati even got involved in the negotiations despite being in Bahrain for the FIFA Congress, according to the Washington Post.
With seemingly everyone involved in American women’s soccer working to ensure Pugh would play in NWSL, and with the Spirit, a deal got done. Pugh has a contract and will suit up for the Spirit.
Pugh’s contract with U.S. Soccer, which covers both her national team and Spirit commitments, is almost certainly relatively lucrative, but she will also cash in with endorsement money. She is already speaking with Nike and adidas over a footwear and apparel deal and will add other endorsements.
There are huge expectations for Pugh, which would be daunting for most 19-year-olds. But to this point, Pugh has handled everything thrown her way and shined on the field. Now she’ll try to do the same for the Washington Spirit.