It was widely reported a few weeks ago that rising 19-year-old US Women’s National Team star Mallory Pugh is leaving UCLA after less than a year to turn professional, but since that time there has been little concrete news regarding her club plans. Her desired destination is reportedly Portland, where she has family and knows several other national team players. However, the Washington Spirit currently hold the top slot for signing Unattached Federation Individuals — which is the mechanism by which the NWSL assigns new federation-subsidized players such as Pugh to teams — and they have no desire to make a deal with the Thorns, in part due to lingering ill will over Portland hiring former Spirit coach Mark Parsons in 2015. Enter Laura Harvey, stage left.
Grant Wahl reports that three other NWSL teams, including the Reign, have expressed interest in making a deal to acquire Pugh. The obvious question is what Seattle would need to send to Washington in order to move to the top of the UFI list. The Spirit currently have no US allocated players, but the Reign have only Megan Rapinoe, and after last year’s national anthem incident you can safely assume that Washington’s ownership would have zero interest in acquiring her, much less that she would agree to such a trade. Washington could use more attacking options after losing 2015 NWSL golden boot winner Crystal Dunn and Estefania Banini in the off-season, but until Larissa Crummer recovers from her injury this is a position where Seattle also lacks depth. The Spirit have some big gaps at midfield, but to a large extent those are due to trading Diana Matheson and Christine Nairn to Seattle, which rules out half of Seattle’s potential trade options there. That leaves defense, where Seattle has good depth thanks to a number of promising young players, but this is also where Washington has the fewest needs. Regardless of the option, Seattle would likely need to package a starter and promising depth player, along with a draft pick or two, in order for a trade to be appealing to the Spirit, and this could be asking too much for a teenager who has yet to play a professional match. That said, it hasn’t stopped the women’s soccer world from putting on their fantasy GM hats and thinking of what package it would take to acquire the NWSL rights of the coveted forward.
US Soccer and their sponsors have a strong desire to keep Pugh in the flagship domestic league, but she also has a contract offer from Paris Saint-Germain should the Spirit not be able to reach an agreement with another NWSL team. Expect a lot of pressure from the Federation to work something out, even if it requires bending the rules or a complicated multi-team transaction. And in that case, you can never rule out Laura Harvey.