At least one U.S. women’s international isn’t waiting around for the labor dispute with U.S. Soccer to end.
Forward Alex Morgan, one of five players to file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the USSF in April, is headed to French club Lyon on a six-month loan. Morgan, 27, played last season for Orlando Pride in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), which employs most of the U.S. women’s players in conjunction with U.S. Soccer paying their salaries.
Under terms of the deal, Lyon can extend the loan after the initial six-month period. It is not known if the deal specifies conditions to convert the loan into a transfer.
Morgan has scored 73 goals in 120 U.S. appearances and is taking her first shot overseas with one of Europe’s top teams. Lyon has won 14 league titles, is the reigning UEFA Champions League winner, and employs numerous international players.
"I hope that this change will help push my game to another level," she said. "I want to be the best player in the United States, the best player in the world.”"
One of her front-line partners will be French international Eugenie Le Sommer, scorer of 16 goals in 12 games this season and 186 overall since joining Lyon in 2010. "Training with these incredible athletes each day, and learning a unique style of play, is exactly what I need," she wrote on the Players Tribune.
“I will also be immersed in a soccer culture that I believe is precisely what I need at this point in my career. It has always been a dream of mine to ‘live’ soccer and to compete in the Champions League."
The Lyon roster includes players from France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand and the U.S. Morgan starts playing next month and will return to play for Orlando after the European season ends in June. Her commitment to Lyon will preclude her from attending a U.S. women’s camp to be held next month, pending negotiations between the players and U.S. Soccer on a new collective bargaining agreement.
“I’m committed to Orlando. Just as I’m committed 100 percent to the national team,” she wrote. “Those things won’t change, but right now I need to follow my heart.”
Said Orlando City SC president Phil Rawlins, “We are obviously disappointed that Alex will miss the beginning of the Pride season but understand her wishes to play in Europe and we look forward to her rejoining her teammates after Lyon’s season.
“This in no way affects our plans or commitment to growing Orlando Pride and we will continue providing the team the best available players, training resources and staff to become a championship contender in the NWSLand a leader in women’s professional soccer.”
The U.S. players’ contract with U.S. Soccer expires on Dec. 31. In October, senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) ramped up the pressure on U.S. Soccer by requesting budget and revenue breakdowns for the U.S. men’s and women’s teams and how those figures are used to determine payments and bonuses paid to the players.
The federation representatives and players met in November to negotiate and got together again this month in search of a resolution. Expiration of the contract permits the players to strike and U.S. Soccer to lock them out of training camps and games.
Players threatened to boycott the Olympic Games but in June U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled a memorandum of understanding, signed by both sides in 2013, empowered conditions of the previous collective bargaining agreement, signed in 2005, to remain in force. That document included a “no strike, no lockout” provision, “which barred the players from authorizing, encouraging, or engaging in any strike, work stoppage, slowdown or other concerted interference with the activities of the Federation.”
If a new CBA is not negotiated in the next 10 days, the American landscape could look very different when Morgan lines up for Lyon. It plays a French Cup game against Evian Jan. 8 and resumes league play at Guingamp a week later.