Mallory Pugh, a 17-year-old high school senior currently in training camp with the United States senior national team, will reportedly forego her college eligibility and play in the National Women’s Soccer League for Portland Thorns FC. Pugh had previously committed to UCLA and was slated to begin her NCAA career there this fall.
Pugh’s landing spot will be Portland via newly announced rules regarding changes to the allocation system which places players whose salaries are subsidized by their national federations. The league announced moments before the start of Friday’s NWSL Draft — in which Portland selected U.S.-subsidized defender and former Virginia All-American Emily Sonnett as the No. 1 pick — changes to how subsidized players will be distributed to teams.
The new process, which refers to allocated players as “Unattached Subsidized Individual” (USI), initially placed the Boston Breakers atop the list of priority ranking. But the Breakers immediately traded that spot to the Thorns, who are expected to use it to acquire Pugh.
Pugh’s family requested that the teenage phenom be allocated to Portland, where Pugh has extended family, according to Soccerwire.com’s Charles Boehm.
By the newly announced rules, Portland would have first pick in the USI rankings and could thus select Pugh with it. (Pugh would be receiving a salary for NWSL and as a full-time U.S. national team player, should this happen.) If and when Pugh enters the USI system and Portland selects her, the Thorns would move to the bottom of the rankings.
Pugh is still eligible for the 2016 U-20 World Cup. She scored seven goals and four assists in five games at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in December, helping the U.S. lift the title. Pugh is the 2014-15 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
Pugh’s decision to skip college and turn professional represents a groundbreaking move in United States women’s soccer. Lindsey Horan became the first known American woman to skip college and turn professional when in 2012 she turned down a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina to sign a reported “six-figure” deal with Paris Saint-Germain. Horan just joined Portland — officially not until this week’s allocation announcement — after three-plus successful years with PSG. Portland acquired Horan’s rights as part of the blockbuster trade which sent Alex Morgan to Orlando in October.
No American player has skipped college and gone directly to the National Women’s Soccer League. By doing so, Pugh would permanently give up her amateur status and college eligibility.