According to The Equalizer, OL Reign has acquired the NWSL rights to Tobin Heath. Racing Louisville had previously held Heath’s rights, which they acquired in the Expansion Draft ahead of their 2021 inaugural season. In exchange, The Equalizer reports that the Reign will be sending $50,000 in allocation money and a second-round and natural fourth-round 2023 NWSL Draft pick.
In the NWSL, rights are the first step to signing a player, but the Reign would still need to work out a deal with Heath on the length and terms of her contract. If they have gotten this far in negotiations with Racing Louisville, one can assume those details have already been sorted. (Unless she signs for a longer term, Heath would become a free agent in 2023 under the league’s new CBA.)
Rumors had started popping up online about Heath joining the Reign a couple of weeks ago, and when OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey was asked about them in a pre-match press conference on June 3, she said, “I think Tobin is an excellent player. Obviously, her rights are currently held by Louisville ... I’m not sure if anything is going to happen there. I think right now, it’s all up in the air a little bit, but I think Tobin could be a fantastic player and has shown that she’s a fantastic player in this league, but as of right now no big news to share on that.”
OL Reign also had no comment when Ride of the Valkyries reached out to them last week, but it appears the two clubs may have worked out a deal.
The long-time U.S. Women’s National Team player — and two-time World Cup winner — most recently featured for Arsenal in the 2021-22 FA Women’s Super League season, a club she’s admired since childhood. The 34-year-old left Arsenal early in May by mutual consent following a hamstring injury that would keep her out of the final games of the WSL season. She made 18 appearances for the London club, scoring three goals.
At Arsenal, Heath played alongside Kim Little and quickly became an admirer of the Scottish midfielder. In a profile for Arsenal.com, Heath said, “I can honestly say I have never played with a better player than Kim Little. I was thrilled to play with her and witness her quality in training and in the games. She does the little things in football that are just brilliant, and honestly, I can’t speak highly enough about her. On the pitch it’s fantastic.”
Heath, who usually lines up on the right or left wing, played the second half of the 2020-21 WSL season with Manchester United under Casey Stoney, who now manages the San Diego Wave. The USWNT forward was a real difference-maker in her limited time with United, scoring four goals and earning two assists in eight matches.
Prior to her move to England, Heath had been playing with the Portland Thorns from their inaugural season in 2013 through the 2019 season. She opted out of the NWSL Challenge Cup in 2020 before signing a contract with Manchester United that fall. With Portland, Heath was a part of their 2013 and 2017 championship teams — scoring 12 goals and notching 24 assists in her seven seasons with the club. She earned NWSL Best XI honors in 2019, 2018, and 2016.
While no details have been officially confirmed by the league or either club, Heath joining the Reign — Portland’s longtime rival — could certainly make for a spicy Cascadia battle on July 10.