Carli Lloyd, the reigning FIFA Player of the Year, appears set for a move abroad as the latest example of a recent trend.
The U.S. national team star is expected to leave the Houston Dash to join Manchester City this season, according to multiple reports, including the Philadelphia Inquirer. The terms of the deal have reportedly not been finalized, but if her move ends up being similar to other USWNT stars who have gone to England this offseason, it won’t include a return to the National Women’s Soccer League this year.
Just got word that Carli Lloyd now has a contract offer from Manchester City and is likely to accept it: https://t.co/5E5UHF7k2C
Lloyd was one of the most productive players in the NWSL last season, having scored five goals in just seven games – but she did play in only seven games after time away for injury, the Olympics and personal commitments. That – including some controversy over her missing time with the Dash – is why Lloyd’s reported departure may not be entirely surprising for fans in Houston, even if losing their best player would be a blow to the expansion team that has yet to make playoffs.
The implications of the expected move will go far beyond just the Dash’s playoff hopes: Lloyd leaving the NWSL after being FIFA’s back-to-back Player of the Year would put an exclamation mark on the challenge that faces the NWSL ahead. The league has already lost high-profile USWNT stars like Crystal Dunn, Hope Solo, Heather O’Reilly and Whitney Engen for 2017, and Alex Morgan will miss part of 2017.
Losing such big-name players certainly presents a challenge for the NWSL, where clubs have counted on star power to drive ticket sales. But that, along with a new partnership that saw A&E Networks buy a 25 percent stake in the four-year-old league, presents an opportunity as well: the league can build toward a more sustainable business model that isn’t driven by the ebb and flow of the USWNT’s endeavors.
Some USWNT players are leaving the NWSL in part because they have been phased out of the national team, which offers better pay and stability than competing in the NWSL alone. But in the case of Lloyd, Dunn and Morgan, the lack of a major tournament on the USWNT calendar until the 2019 World Cup has seemingly freed them up to look beyond the NWSL, which is backed by U.S. Soccer.
Although the Lloyd deal isn’t official yet, it’s been rumored since last week, with several UK reporters, including one from the Sunday Times, calling it a done deal. Stateside reports previously said there was nothing finalized, but now it appears an offer is on the table and Lloyd is expected to accept.
The timing would make sense for Lloyd. Other than the prestigious SheBelieves Cup next month, where the USWNT will face England, Germany and France, there is little else on the international calendar keeping her close to the USWNT’s base. On top of that, there was a bit of friction in Houston last season between her and Dash coach Randy Waldrum.
Controversy ensued when Waldrum said after the Olympics that he didn’t know when Lloyd would return to Dash training and the club was actively “trying to get answers.” Lloyd dismissed the concerns over her absence, reportedly saying it “none of anyone’s business.” She eventually returned to the Dash 17 days after the USWNT was eliminated from the Olympics, making her the last USWNT player to return to her NWSL club.
The move to Manchester City, assuming it gets finalized, will be a big one for both Lloyd and the Dash, but an even bigger one for the NWSL. In that sense, the 2017 NWSL season is shaping up to be an interesting one, even if it’s without the reigning FIFA Player of the Year.