FA WSL: Dunn’s Chelsea deal could see more US players head to England

With Crystal Dunn and Alex Morgan completing their transfers to European clubs, Emily Magee looks at how the turmoil within US Soccer could allow more stars to cross the pond to the FA Women’s Super League.

Chelsea Ladies completed the signing of US international star Crystal Dunn this week, making her the second player to leave the National Women’s Soccer league in a matter of weeks.

While the NWSL’s most marketable player Alex Morgan is set to miss the start of Orlando Pride’s season following her loan move to Lyon. Rising star Dunn could be a far bigger loss for the league as the former Washington Spirit forward will miss the duration of the 2017 season, with her contract with Chelsea running through to 2018.

For the American domestic league – which is heavily backed by US Soccer – the loss of two of its most high profile stars could cause pressure, but Dunn’s transfer to England’s WSL is a positive transfer for Chelsea and Emma Hayes – who praised Dunn as a “special player who’ll bolster the growth of the league”.

With no major tournaments coming up for the US national team until 2019, it’s an ideal opportunity for many of the internationals to try their trade across the pond. However, on the surface, the gap in the World Champions tournament schedule may be the main catalyst for a move abroad, underlying dealings off the field could also account for the transfers.

It’s been well documented that US Soccer and the US Women’s national team are in a public legal battle over the dealings of their players.

Five of the biggest names on the team filed a complaint on behalf of the team last year, suing US Soccer for ‘discrimination’ and demanding equal pay for equal work.

The original collective bargaining agreement between the two parties expired in 2012, following this they signed a memorandum of understanding which would govern their relationship going forward. This expired at the end of 2016 and the national team players are now in negotiations for a new CBA.

This leaves a level of uncertainty for all involved including the national team, as US Soccer pays the salaries of the US allocated players. There are 24 said players under contracts divided into three tiers, which players move between based on performances.

So what does this mean for the WSL?

Under the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding it stated that national team players can opt out of playing in the NWSL to play in Europe, but only if they play in the NWSL for two years. In Dunn’s case, the University of North Carolina graduate played for the Washington Spirit from 2014-2016 after being the first overall draft pick ahead of her first professional campaign. Therefore making the winger eligible to opt out for the 2017 season.

As a new CBA is negotiated over the coming weeks or months, the previous terms will be carried over. However, European clubs may still be targeting players who are unhappy with life in the NWSL.

As Dunn departs, it’s no secret that life isn’t rosy at Washington Spirit. Despite coming within seconds of the NWSL Championship last season, there was on-going turmoil behind the scenes.

This has led to many players wanting out with the Spirit organisation, with the most high-profile departure being captain and Spirit stalwart Ali Krieger who transferred to Orlando Pride in November. Christine Nairn, Estefania Banini, Megan Oyster and now Dunn have all followed her lead; leaving what sources say was a toxic atmosphere under owner Bill Lynch.

Dunn is not the only player currently eyeing the FA WSL – FC Kansas City midfielder Heather O’Reilly has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal Ladies. The 32-year-old retired from the national Team last year capping a glittering career spanning 15 years. The New Jersey native has won three Olympic gold medals, a World Cup and an NWSL championship and has recently played 90 minutes for Arsenal in a closed-door friendly.

Only time will tell whether this deal will go through, but there certainly could be more US players heading to the WSL in the near future.


Follow Emily on Twitter at @Egmagee

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