U.S. women: Pugh sweepstakes have begun

Mallory Pugh, whom Anson Dorrance has called “the Mia Hamm of her generation," is leaving UCLA without having played an official game. Where she plays -- the NWSL or France -- remains to be seen.

Pugh, who won't turn 19 until April 29, had once before contemplated turning pro but she enrolled at UCLA in the winter quarter and played in three spring games for the Bruins this year. She sat out her freshman season last fall to represent the USA at the 2016 Under-20 Women's World Cup.

"This decision was certainly not easy for me to make," Pugh said. "UCLA is such a special place, and being a Bruin was an incredible thing. UCLA Soccer brought amazing things to my life, and chasing after a national championship with my friends and teammates would've been special, but I could not turn down this opportunity. I want to thank my teammates, coaches, UCLA Athletics, and everyone else for the support I have behind me. I may have been here for a short time, but UCLA will always have a special place in my heart, and I will always be a Bruin."

Pugh has scored five goals and added three assists in 22 games for the USA since making her national team debut in January 2016 when she was 17. She quickly became an integral part of the national team and made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.

"We are sad to see Mal depart UCLA, but it's exciting for her to have such a unique opportunity," said UCLA head coach Amanda Cromwell. "Our relationship with Mal started a long time ago in the recruiting process. We've seen her develop and grow into an amazing young woman and player. Mal will always be a Bruin, and we have no doubt that she is destined for great things as her career progresses."

NWSL? Pugh almost turned pro in January 2016 when the Portland Thorns acquired the first spot in the NWSL's allocation rankings in a trade with the Boston Breakers with the hope of using it to sign Pugh. The 2016 rankings expired at the end of last year.

The Breakers again had the No. 1 spot in the 2017 allocation order but swapped the No. 1 and No. 2 spots as part of a bigger deal with Washington. The Spirit had originally moved up to No. 2 in the allocation rankings in the deal that sent unhappy Ali Krieger to Orlando.

The unsettled situation at Washington, where 2015 NWSL MVP Crystal Dunn left to join England's Chelsea Ladies, has put a cloud over the Pugh situation.

Portland -- which drew more fans for its opener on Saturday than the four other NWSL openers combined -- is the most popular destination for players. The Thorns' roster includes Pugh's U.S. teammates Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Sonnett, Lindsey Horan, Allie Long and Tobin Heath. Portland would have to swing a deal with Washington to sign Pugh.

An NWSL contract would supplement the income Pugh would earn from the U.S. national team as well as endorsements. The recent conclusion of a new collective bargaining agreement gives some clarity to Pugh can earn. She'll have to weigh that against what she might earn by playing abroad.

FRANCE? Like Pugh, Horan grew up in the Denver area. She turned pro out of high school and turned down a scholarship to North Carolina to play for Paris St. Germain in France. PSG and Lyon, which signed Alex Morgan in January, have the best-financed women's programs in Europe and would be considered the only realistic options for Pugh abroad.
13 comments about "U.S. women: Pugh sweepstakes have begun".
  1. Quarterback TD, April 18, 2017 at 8:08 a.m.

    Totally agree with the his move but not the Mia Hamm part..the opportunity may not repeat itself as so many young women taking up the sport and turning pro she may be left in the dust after 2 years in college..Also people should stop giving young unestablished players labels as established "been there done that" players.. she has not accomplish anything and will need about 15 years of soccer before she can even be compared to Mia..

  2. :: SilverRey :: replied, April 18, 2017 at 9:27 a.m.

    Similar to Pulusic, we want to see these players reach the potential we all see for them.
    I think the comparison to Hamm is more about us wanting to see Pugh reach that level if not go flying past it.
    That and she's a dynamic player similar to Hamm.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, April 18, 2017 at 3:40 p.m.

    Flying past Mia Hamm? She and Akers were the only women and only US players to make Pele's list of the world's greatest players in 2004. There is no place beyond that to fly to.

  4. Fire Paul Gardner Now, April 18, 2017 at 9:51 a.m.

    Good decision. For elite male players, college is a total waste of time that stunts development. It isn't quite that way for women but playing as a pro is certainly better for development, especially for someone who already is this good at age 18/19. Plus, she can actually earn some money now which will be nice for her I'm sure.

  5. James Madison, April 18, 2017 at 3:41 p.m.

    When discounted by the potential for reaching a first team in a top European league, the rewards for turning pro early in comparison with completing a college education are not as great for a soccer player as for a basketball or football player and are less for a woman than for a man.

  6. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, April 18, 2017 at 4:20 p.m.

    Yes but she's likely to earn at least $200k at age 18 which isn't too shabby. She can always go back to college later in life like millions of other people do. Plus, from a soccer development perspective, playing professionally is far better.

  7. Quarterback TD replied, April 19, 2017 at 8:55 a.m.

    Fire, you are misreading and misrepresenting again-- she is 18 going on 19

  8. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, April 19, 2017 at 10:51 a.m.

    I said she is 18 and she is. In any event, what difference does it make? Don't forget you have promised to stop posting if the US doesn't win the U-20 world cup.

  9. Quarterback TD replied, April 19, 2017 at 11:23 a.m.

    I know smartphones predictive text is awkward but I suggest you read your statement because it incorrectly implied-- and YES and that's a BIG YES I will stop posting on any related soccer sites.. as a matter of fact I will have zero interest or partake in any soccer events except my son games..

  10. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, April 19, 2017 at 1:20 p.m.

    Not sure what you are talking about. In any event, I wrote these comments on a computer, not my phone. Why don't you do us all a favor and just assume now that the US won't win the U-20s?

  11. Quarterback TD replied, April 19, 2017 at 5:35 p.m.

    Who is "us all" ?? I don't think anyone likes you including yourself-- I will gladly drop out the site if US fails..not because of you but because I have reached my limit of failures with the US Soccer. Don't worry it's only a few months away..

  12. matt ireland, April 20, 2017 at 9:45 a.m.

    While Portland has earned via history it's place as ONE of the top women's teams, stop assuming (as this and other articles do) it's the best game in town. The relatively-new kid has a better stadium, and let's see who has the best opening day attendance after ALL of the teams have their opener. Orlando treats its players better than another other team, too, first class in places to live and on equal footing with the men's team. So, stop talking about how Portland is so much better than everyone. Can't wait now till Sep in Orlando when we are at full strength (Alex and Marta on field then) and see how OUR Pride crowd really affects a game!!!

    And if Mallory is smart, she will go to France for a few years and then have Orlando jockey to get her after Marta's contract is up in two years.

  13. R2 Dad, April 21, 2017 at 2:15 p.m.

    Barca would be an amazing experience for Pugh. Great football city, amazing coaching, new language, awesome food. I don't know the wages she could command but I think it could be a good match.

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