As the clock ticks on NWSL—WSL loans, British clubs have found themselves negotiating between players’ best interests, pre-season training needs from teams across the pond, and their own personnel requirements for the remainder of the season, writes Rich Laverty.
It only seems like yesterday we were talking about the influx of NWSL stars into the FA Women’s Super League. But now, a few months on, we’re already faced with the prospect of the last game for a handful of said players.
While the four major US stars who joined Manchester sides City and United all committed to season-long deals, it is a bit more complex for some of the other players who came over.
Although all eyes towards the end of the transfer window were on the aforementioned quartet of Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Tobin Heath, and Christen Press, as well as Tottenham’s Alex Morgan, they were joined by many more players from the NWSL who all have varying contract situations.
Morgan is one of those who we could see for the last time this weekend. It would be a shame given the US striker is just getting going after a long period away from the pitch, but her NWSL side Orlando Pride will no doubt want a fully fit Morgan back in the US ready for pre-season.
The same may go for Pride teammate Shelina Zadorsky who is also on loan from the Pride.
Meanwhile, however, Alanna Kennedy’s situation has changed after being chosen by Racing Louisville in the recent expansion draft. Rumours suggest Kennedy may have already agreed to stay at Tottenham until the end of the season, returning to start her new journey in Louisville at the end of the FA WSL season.
All around the leagues, players are facing different prospects. With the January window set to open on the 31st, some loans expire on December 31st, while others were agreed until May 31st, the end of the English domestic season.
West Ham United are another side in limbo over two players who have become key members of their squad this season.
Having no new manager confirmed doesn’t help matters, with the club currently tasked with big decisions without the input of a number one.
Rachel Daly, on loan from Houston Dash, has a deal to the end of this month. She could be another to wave goodbye to the league again this weekend, with any extension meaning she would miss the Challenge Cup, a competition she was influential in last year in helping the Dash lift the trophy.
There is now a big push and pull going on between NWSL and FA WSL clubs. Naturally, each wants to protect their own best interests. NWSL clubs want their players back fit and ready as soon as their contracts in England expire, while FA WSL clubs naturally want to keep hold of prized assets for as long as possible.
Daly’s situation is made tougher by the fact she committed to a new Dash contract for 2021 and beyond, while Emily Van Egmond, another player in England on loan from Orlando Pride, is the opposite.
West Ham are in discussions to extend both players’ deals until May, but with Van Egmond’s deal in Orlando now expiring, the Australian is now essentially free to speak to any club she wants. That doesn’t necessarily rule out a stay in England.
Others like Claire Emslie are more cut and dry after it was confirmed the Scotland forward signed a loan deal until May. But Brighton’s Denise O’Sullivan only joined until the end of December, meaning she is another now likely playing her final FA WSL game this weekend.
While most clubs will be deep in negotiations to keep their loan players for as long as possible, some may come to other compromises. Jess Fishlock at Reading has a season-long deal but has an agreement which will see her return to OL Reign at the end of February, meaning her NWSL club get her back in time for pre-season and Reading get two more months out of one of their more influential signings.
Birmingham City are also in the same boat with Rachel Corsie, who has been a key figure in Carla Ward’s impressive first few months in charge. Corsie’s loan also runs until February 1st, and while the Blues would obviously want that to extend, Corsie’s NWSL club Utah Royals are relocating back to Kansas City and the club are waiting for some clarity on their plans for the Scotland centre-back.
Player opinion also has to come into it. Should they stay until the end of May, they will miss NWSL pre-season and the start of the new season, which some may not be willing to commit to, and a player’s own wishes will be as key in any negotiations as the wishes of their clubs.
Essentially, many clubs are now facing a three-way battle between their own interests, the interests of the NWSL club the player is contracted to, and the player themselves, in order to settle what their squad may look like when the FA WSL returns in January.
Follow Rich on Twitter @RichJLaverty