NWSL: Pugh signing is 'monumental moment'

Mallory Pugh, who agreed to play for the Washington Spirit, is the first of what will be, in the short term, a select group of American players who turn pro in the NWSL after giving up their four years of college eligibility.

While the maximum salary of an NWSL player -- $41,700 in 2017 -- isn't enough to entice a player to give up a college scholarship, a young player of Pugh's ability good enough to get regular playing time on the national team is different.

She not only will earn an NWSL salary from U.S. Soccer as an allocated player but earn a national team salary -- plus benefits and bonuses. The kicker: Pugh signed an endorsement contract with Nike.

Pugh, who turned 19 years old on April 29, finished high school a year ago but sat out the fall semester at UCLA to play for the USA at the Under-20 World Cup. She has made 22 appearances and scored four goals for the USA since she received her first call-up in January 2016. She played for the USA at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Pugh isn't the first American to skip college. Fellow Coloradan Lindsey Horan signed a six-figure contract with French club Paris St. Germain in 2012 instead of enrolling at the University of North America. There was no U.S. women's pro league in 2012. Horan joined the NWSL's Portland Thorns in 2016.

"I am very excited to begin my career in the NWSL and with the Washington Spirit," said Pugh. "Being part of a professional team will allow me to grow and develop as a player, and I look forward to helping the Spirit win championships."

There was much speculation the 2016 Olympian didn't want to play in Washington, but the Spirit acquired the first position in the NWSL Distribution Ranking Order via a series of offseason trades with Orlando and Boston and held on to that position.
"This is a monumental moment for our club and the NWSL,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “We are extremely humbled and grateful for the opportunity to develop such a talented player. We look forward to having Mallory join the Spirit family."

Four players from the 2016 U.S. U-17 Women's World Cup team -- Jaelin Howell (Real Colorado), Sophia Smith (Real Colorado), Ashley Sanchez (So Cal Blues) and Brianna Pinto (CASL) -- have trained with the national team but none has been capped.

Pugh played -- and scored -- in a friendly against Ireland after her first camp.

19 comments about "NWSL: Pugh signing is 'monumental moment'".
  1. Nick Daverese, May 14, 2017 at 8:27 a.m.

    I have always said no matter how good a player is when you get him. You should still be able to make the player better. Except you have to be careful on how you do it. For example once Steve Sampson happened to make a coaching point to one of his players. The point was the player was receiving a ball from the left flank with his left foot. Sampson saw that and told him to receive the ball with his right foot in order to open up his body so he could pass to both sides of the field rather then just on the left side. It was a good coaching point since the receiver did not use the right foot. Well his own players thought that was obvious to them even though the player did not do it.

  2. Goal Goal, May 14, 2017 at 11:32 a.m.

    I am really curious as to who gives these kids advice. A short sited decision on a long term event. I am not taking anything away from women's soccer or this youngsters ability. She could have went to college with a scholarship got her education and still played pro soccer at the end. Don't understand it.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, May 15, 2017 at 9:20 a.m.

    I suspect she is thinking she can always attend college after playing pro. Most people go to college so that they can earn higher wages than the average high school graduate. So what is the real point of Pugh attending college now? College students may get a diploma, but that doesn't mean they are educated. Then is a BA enough? In a lot of fields you cannot survive without a masters. What about timing? A degree in a technical field now won't help her get a technical job 20 years from now. Technical information has a very short shelf life.

  4. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, May 15, 2017 at 10:12 a.m.

    Also, I believe she will earn $200-$300k between NWSL and the USWNT national team. That's a lot of money to give up over four years. Plus, she can always go to college later in life.

  5. Allan Lindh replied, May 15, 2017 at 12:14 p.m.

    College is about growing up, intellectually and personally. It's a developmental stage that cannot be duplicated later in life. Trust me, I've been there.

  6. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, May 15, 2017 at 12:31 p.m.

    Yes, I suspect most of us posting here have been to college. But presumably none of us had the chance to earn a boatload of money while pursuing our dream as an alternative to attending college, as Mallory does. This is the right choice for her from a soccer perspective clearly and obviously she made the decision that turning pro was the right move for her on a personal level as well. I think she'll be just fine.

  7. Nick Daverese, May 14, 2017 at 12:16 p.m.

    She wants to live the dream now, and not later. Can't blame her for that. Going to college when your a good player is more the parents dream then the athlete.

  8. R2 Dad, May 14, 2017 at 12:25 p.m.

    Exactly whom has this coach previously developed, making this a good move for her?

  9. Nick Daverese, May 14, 2017 at 3:18 p.m.

    Probably not enough.

  10. Nick Daverese, May 14, 2017 at 3:23 p.m.

    She is also getting a contract to promote either Nike or addidas that is where the money is I guess.

  11. Mo youknow, May 15, 2017 at 8:40 a.m.

    She's one of the few female players I enjoy watching and would pay to see. However, have to wonder if the coaching and support she would get at UCLA isn't better than that of the Washington Spirit.

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, May 15, 2017 at 9:31 a.m.

    College soccer is very different than professional soccer. NCAA rules instead of FIFA rules for one. NCAA restrictions on training for another.

  13. Christopher Tallmadge, May 15, 2017 at 9:23 a.m.

    College isn't for everyone. Maybe, like many athletes, sports was her only reason for being there.

  14. Paul Cuadros, May 15, 2017 at 9:36 a.m.

    This is the right move for Mallory. She becomes what she was looking to become four years earlier than she had hoped and earn an income now. Essentially, while she is being paid a salary for playing professionally it is the endorsement deals from Nike and others where her true chances are making an excellent income. College players must keep their amateur status and can not cut these endorsement deals for shoes, gear, kits, drink endorsements, television appearances, you name it--are all open to her, a very popular player that will be around for the next 10 years given her age. She can always earn a degree along the way or after if needed but if she plays this right--she won't ever need to work again.

  15. Miguel Dedo, May 15, 2017 at 12:07 p.m.

    Thank you for recognizing the scope of our university - via your info on where Lindsey Horan did not go to college.
    Officially, we are still UNC.

  16. Goal Goal, May 15, 2017 at 4:43 p.m.

    There are a lot of athletes who have earned a boat load of money, never completed their education, got bad advice and are wondering around trying to figure out how to make a buck.

    If is a big word. If you are successful at the sport. If you don't get hurt. If you make a lot of money. I would rather put my money on When I get my degree I will have something to fall back on just in case I am not another Messi or Rinaldo and have to go out and work for a living. There is not a whole lot of future in soccer in this country at this time and particularly in womens soccer.

  17. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, May 15, 2017 at 6 p.m.

    She will forgo something like $1m by spending four years at UCLA and that isn't counting endorsements. She can always go back and get the degree later if she wants. I can understand your attitude with someone who is a more marginal player but not someone is a USWNT regular at age 18.

  18. Goal Goal, May 15, 2017 at 8:58 p.m.

    Fire I respect your opinion. I sincerely hope everything goes as it should.

  19. Nick Daverese, May 16, 2017 at 8:41 a.m.

    I would tell any great player if they were capable of becoming a professional to skip college and go pro.

    A lot of youth coaches tell their club players to skip HS soccer and just play club if they both play at the same time because the training is better at club.

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