Sports Chosun, the top sports newspaper in Korea, is reporting that South Korean midfielder Ji So-yun has signed a “lucrative deal” with Seattle Reign FC, becoming the fourth Korean player in the NWSL after Jeon Ga-eul, Lee So-dam, and Casey Phair, who signed a deal with Angel City this week.
BBC reporter Emma Sanders also confirmed the report and notes that it's a two-year deal with a possible option. A transfer fee will reportedly be involved, as Ji had one year left on her contract.
After starting her career at INAC Kobe in Japan, the 32-year-old midfielder joined Chelsea in 2014 – becoming the first South Korean to play in the FA Women’s Super League. At the time of her signing, Chelsea coach Emma Hayes said, "She is one of the best midfielders in the world and our fans will love her."
By the end of that first season, she was named the league’s Player of the Year and the PFA Players’ Player of the Year. Ji would go on to score 68 goals in 210 appearances, including 37 league goals. In addition to the goal-scoring, she became well-known as one of the best creative attacking players playing in England. Ji contributed to the first 13 major trophies Chelsea won in the WSL era.
Ji would certainly fit that mold of a player Seattle Reign GM Lesle Gallimore is looking for. Last week, Gallimore told Ride of the Valkyries that the team was searching for goal scorers and impactful attacking players, "Players that are capable of setting the tempo from the midfield. Players that are impactful from an attacking standpoint, but can play on the defensive side of the ball in the way that Laura likes to play."
Ji is not just a creative playmaker but is a player comfortable carrying the ball up the field, something the Reign lacked when Rose Lavelle was injured last year. In her final season at Chelsea, Ji was in the 96+ percentile amongst midfielders for progressive carries, passes, and completed passes.
In the fall of 2022, Ji returned to Korea in an attempt to grow the women's game back at home and prepare for the Women's World Cup with her teammates. She joined WK League side Suwon FC and scored a brace in her debut. Ji led Suwon FC to the championship last season and was named Midfielder of the Year.
According to Sports Chosun, Ji had 6 assists in 16 games last season. The outlet also reports that Suwon general manager Choi Soon-ho and the club's owner have agreed to the transfer, making Ji's move to the Reign imminent.
Ji was appointed co-president of the Korean Pro-Footballers’ Association in 2020, becoming the first woman to occupy that role. She has more than 150 international caps for her country. The 32-year-old has scored 69 international goals since her debut in 2006.