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Free agents Rose Lavelle, Emily Sonnett sign with Gotham FC

The midfielders signed with Gotham through the 2026 season.

Last Updated
4 min read
Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

As OL Reign inch closer to the start of their 2024 preseason, they'll be building their roster without Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett, who both signed with NJ/NY Gotham FC on Thursday. The contracts for both players run through 2026.

Lavelle and Sonnett are not the only two U.S. Women's National Team players who signed with Gotham after exploring free agency this offseason. The 2023 NWSL champions announced the signings of Crystal Dunn and Tierna Davidson earlier this week. They join fellow USWNT players Kelley O'Hara, Jenna Nighswonger, Midge Purce, and Lynn Williams on Gotham's roster – which also includes World Cup champion Esther González, who scored the game-winning goal in the 2023 NWSL final.

As general manager Yael Averbuch West shared in a CBS Sports interview, Gotham's approach was driven by significant data analysis and a desire to help each player grow. Davidson confirmed in interviews after her signing that a desire to become a better professional was a driving factor for joining Gotham.

"It's obviously important and players need to feel valued and need to be compensated appropriately but the most important things to the players we talked to always had to do with improving, being held to high standards, playing alongside other great players, being on a winning team with a good culture," Averbuch West said.

Gotham put themselves in a position to make these deals by acquiring roughly $265,000 in extra allocation money through trades during the 2022 and 2023 seasons. However, it's unclear how much allocation money was already used for player contracts. Gotham also lost the salaries of important players like Kristie Mewis and Ali Krieger; Mewis recently signed with West Ham while Krieger joined Megan Rapinoe in retiring from professional soccer.

The league also announced on Thursday an increase in salary cap for the 2024 season. Each team now has $2.75 million to work with, a nearly 40% increase from the $1.375 million salary cap and $600,000 in allocation money available in 2023.

Lavelle and Sonnett both became unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2023 season, meaning they were free to talk to and sign with any NWSL team. While Reign head coach Laura Harvey has encouraged her players to explore free agency, noting that the players fought hard for this right, the Reign have so far been unable to bring their free agents back this year.

In addition to seeing Lavelle and Sonnett depart, midfielder Angelina, a restricted free agent, signed with Orlando in December. Tziarra King remains an unsigned restricted free agent, while Nikki Stanton is an unrestricted free agent.

Lavelle joined the Reign in May 2021 and was a key part of the Reign's NWSL Shield-winning season in 2022 – scoring five goals in 17 matches and being named to the NWSL Second XI. The season marked the first and only time in Lavelle's NWSL career that she played more than 1,000 league minutes.

Source: FBref

Lavelle was injured for most of 2023, struggling to overcome an unspecified knee injury and appearing in just four NWSL matches. She got healthy again as the NWSL playoffs progressed and scored a crucial goal in the NWSL championship match.

Sonnett joined the Reign in 2023 via a trade with the Washington Spirit. At the time, the trade was surprising – since the Reign had a solid backline that was the best in the NWSL the year prior. Harvey surprised everyone when she moved Sonnett into the midfield. While there were initial hiccups in her new role, Sonnett would go on to become one of the best defensive midfielders in the league.

Source: FBref

Last year, Harvey – who praised Sonnett's grit and winning mentality – shared with reporters that Sonnett called and asked her to make her the best No. 6 in the world when she wasn't getting minutes during the World Cup.

The Reign have several strong returning players, including a defensive core that helped them get to three straight NWSL semifinals. However, they will have a big creative hole to fill with the departure of Lavelle and Rapinoe, who both led the Reign in key passes per 90 minutes and expected assists per 90, and a lot of free cap space thanks to those departures – plus the $160,000 transfer fee they got for Phallon Tullis-Joyce – with which to make some bold moves.

The Reign now have some work to do now to complete their 2024 roster. The NWSL preseason begins on January 22, with the NWSL Draft happening on January 12. The Reign currently holds the 27th and 43rd picks in the draft. The club also remains up for sale, with sources indicating the Carlyle Group is in exclusive talks with OL Groupe to buy the club in conjunction with the Seattle Sounders. The deal is expected to be sorted in the next few weeks.