Five USWNT World Cup winners played in the Women’s Super League in 2020/21, but all five will be back home in the United States long before the next campaign kicks off in September.
Alex Morgan left Tottenham as soon as her short-term deal was up in December, opting against triggering an option to extend it until the end of the season. Manchester City have now confirmed the departures of Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, while there is an increasingly inevitability that Tobin Heath and Christen Press won’t stay at Manchester United either.
For the five USWNT stars, the WSL provided a short-term opportunity to play football that they would otherwise have been denied had they stayed at home in NWSL.
The 2020 NWSL season was cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and replaced by two mini-tournaments several months apart. Without heading to England, the ‘USWNT five’ would have faced more than a year playing only a handful of games.
But short-term filler is all it has been in England and the NWSL has pulled them straight back.
The WSL is already a destination league. That much is clear. Morgan, Mewis, Lavelle, Heath and Press wouldn’t have chosen English clubs if it wasn’t the case, nor would USWNT colleague Abby Dahlkemper have later signed a multi-year deal with Manchester City until 2023.
Also consider that the WSL has attracted other top international stars like Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, Caitlin Foord and Jackie Groenen since 2019, persuaded Lucy Bronze to return home, as well as also retaining the likes of Vivianne Miedema, Magdalena Eriksson and most of its domestic stars.
Canada international Shelina Zadorsky has signed a contract extension at Tottenham rather than return to Orlando Pride, where she was previously a teammate of Morgan’s. Scotland international Claire Emslie has also quit Pride permanently in favour of Everton.
But losing the Americans is still a disappointing blow to the WSL, both as a competition and for the fans. Supporters never got to see them live and in the flesh as stadiums in the UK remained closed throughout the 2020/21 WSL season aside from a few limited numbers events.
The WSL is already one of the best domestic competitions in the world and arguably the best in Europe ahead of France, Germany and Spain where the disparity between the top clubs and the rest is far larger. But perhaps proving to Americans that is it is just as good as NWSL is the next step.