USWNT’s Rapinoe ends Lyon contract early to spend full season with Reign

Megan Rapinoe

By CAITLIN MURRAY

Megan Rapinoe is coming home.

Rapinoe has ended her contract with Olympique Lyon in France’s top league and will join Seattle Reign FC for the start of the 2014 season, the club announced Monday.

“I’ve decided to leave Lyon. I feel like I can’t really pinpoint one specific reason,” Rapinoe said during an interview recorded in France before the announcement. “I think it’s more of an overall happiness and wellness thing. And I’m so grateful for the time I’ve had here. I’ve been challenged in ways I’ve never been challenged before.”

Rapinoe will report to the Reign’s pre-season camp on March 10, months earlier than initially planned.

The U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder had joined the National Women’s Soccer League halfway through the season last year due to commitments with Lyon. In Rapinoe’s first game with the club, they broke a nine-game losing streak, proving her value as a winger.

“Megan is a brilliant player and a critical part of our squad,” said coach Laura Harvey in a statement Monday. “We’re very happy that she’ll be in Seattle for the entire 2014 season and beyond.”

Rapinoe’s decision to play in France’s Feminine Division 1 last year just as most of her USWNT teammates were flocking to the NWSL was a high-profile one. She was paid handsomely compared to her NWSL colleagues, earning more than $14,000 per month in France.

But the parity of the NWSL wasn’t anywhere to be found. To wit, Lyon finally ended an 87-game unbeaten streak in their league on Saturday, falling 0-1 to Paris Saint-Germain.

With the NWSL’s top teams finishing the regular season in a three-way tie last year, there’s no question that one player like Rapinoe can play a vital role for a team. Rapinoe had played 28 games for Lyon, tallying eight goals, and despite playing just 12 games with the Reign, she led the team in goals with five.

“I feel like there’s some really exciting things going on at home that I want to be a part of,” Rapinoe said. “The team shaping up in Seattle is awesome.”

Seattle has spent its off-season undergoing a massive makeover, bringing in rising USWNT star Sydney Leroux and Arsenal Ladies’ top scorer Kim Little, among others.

The USWNT has a batch of players who will report late to the NWSL as they finish up overseas commitments – Christen Press, Meghan Klingenberg and Whitney Engen are all expected to finish a Champion’s League run with Tyreso FF in Sweden while Tobin Heath will finish out PSG’s season.

U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati reportedly said last week that USWNT players were required to play in the NWSL as part of their contracts with the federation, which operates the league. The USWNT is gearing up for World Cup qualifiers later this year and coach Tom Sermanni has made it clear he prefers to have players stateside.

But the decision to come back early is, in some ways, as simple as missing the Pacific Northwest, Rapinoe said.

“It will just be nice to be home for a while and lay some roots,” she said.

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What do you think of Rapinoe leaving France’s league for the NWSL? What does her decision mean for the USWNT and the NWSL? Would you like to see the USWNT’s other abroad players join the NWSL earlier?

Share your thoughts below?

This entry was posted in NWSL, Women's Professional Soccer, Women's Soccer. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to USWNT’s Rapinoe ends Lyon contract early to spend full season with Reign

  1. FRANK says:

    I LIKE RAPINOE

  2. ruby says:

    welcome home pinoe

  3. Zach says:

    Don’t forget Bev Goebel, top scorer in Japan!

  4. Jenn says:

    I highly respect her decision. Yes it sucks she had to break her Lyon contract and I am sure that organization is not too happy about it. However what good is a player who is not happy with where they are. Being home sick can play havoc on your physical and mental state. I am sure it was a tough decision to make, and was not one she made over night. Only Ms. Rapinoe will know what was the best decision for her.

  5. orangecleats says:

    I’m personally thrilled with these news! Seattle will be even stronger right from the start and I bet it’s going to be an exciting season!
    But I wonder about you mentioning the absence of parity in the french league. Are you saying that’s part of the reason she’s not staying in France? Because I’d say it’s more about the fact that she was on the bench a lot in France and she’d rather have consistent playing time. Combined with all the other reasons of course, being closer to home, the uswnt, Seattle being awesome.. (joking)
    As for the other uswnt players, their situations are different. For example, Tyreso is still in the CL and the americans are starting players on that team, they have very good reason to see it through. In the end, what’s important is that players can do what they think is best for themselves.

    • Joe+G says:

      Parity in the Euro leagues has been cited as an issue. If she is only getting run out against weak sides, she really isn’t getting challenged week-in/week-out. I’m sure the lack of playing time is a bigger issue, but certainly the competition matters as well.

  6. Apredator says:

    when i saw her in lyon, i kinda felt she was not okay somehow. i can fully understand her decision and no matter what, i stand behind her. Pinoe we wanna see you smile! #LetitReign

  7. KNPonder says:

    Interesting . . . I did not know that USWNT players were now contractually obligated to play in the NWSL. I wonder what effect this has on the fringe and/or younger players. I would imagine that for the top dozen or so players that being part of the USWNT pays more (US Soccer pay, endorsements, etc.), but not sure how the math works out for the others.

  8. a says:

    how can we grow the WOMEN’S SOCCER LEAGUE and WNBA in the USA

    surely millions of women are capable of supporting them and bringing $$$$ to the game

    Less supermodels/housewives and more support to these athletes

  9. Philly Joe says:

    It’s great having her back home. She is such fun to watch play. I think most fans of women’s football would agree the excitement level for the whole American game has gone up one more turn by having her back full time.

    As far as the other women playing outside the states. I’m sure they all have good reasons, but I can see this league can some day be one of the best in the world and that will draw the best here.
    My last comment is just to say, we need a way to pay these professional athletes the money they deserve. It’s outrageous what some of these women get paid.

    • nato says:

      it already is number 3.

      I believe the best league is France/Germany, followed by Sweden and USA

      • Joe+G says:

        Since France & Germany are separate leagues, that would make it #4.

      • Elite Hunting says:

        I believe the NWSL is superior to all of those leagues. The American talent pool is deeper and the inclusion of other international stars make it the destination for the top level of play.

        • orangecleats says:

          The nwsl has the potential to become that but is not there yet. Most European players would be reluctant to move to a league that hasn’t prove its stability yet and isn’t paying all that much either. That’s part of the reason you don’t see any of them moving yet unless they have a good personal reason – Kim Little took a pay cut to go to Seattle but that was all because of Harvey. The league as a whole needs to establish itself before talent comes rushing in from abroad. When that happens, then we can talk about being superior or not.

          • TimbersGary says:

            Don’t forget Angerer. But I agree with your point for sure.

            • orangecleats says:

              Right, Angerer is certainly a big name and it’s great for Portland to have her. Now that she’s won the POTY award it’ll be a great opportunity for publicity for the whole league. Which makes me think: it’s one thing to get “established” foreign players to play in the nwsl and it’s another thing to get up-and-coming, rising talent (possibly younger and more affordable). Both are good though. Good players are good players.

    • reclamator says:

      If they got they got more butts in the seats, we could justify higher salaries for the women.

      • orangecleats says:

        You know,I can’t really tell if your phrasing is unfortunate or you’re being purposefully condescending..
        Increasing the attendance numbers is not something that happens overnight but it’s definitely a goal every team and the league as a whole are working towards.
        We don’t need to “justify” higher salaries. What we need to do is support the women’s game so that it grows and more people and investors/sponsors get interested in it. Then teams will be in a better position to pay the players what they should be paid.

  10. kernel thai says:

    Considering finding ways to make extra money for teams is such an issue, I cant for the life of me figure why they wouldnt try challenge matches. How great would it be to have Seattle play Lyon? Maybe u throw Portland and Kobe into the mix. U play double header at CenturyLink and a brace at Jeld-Wen swapping opponents. It not only plays to decent crowds but it sheds some light on where the NWSL stands with the big clubs.

  11. Ian says:

    No transfer? How does one decide to break one’s contract and not incur some legal retribution?

    • orangecleats says:

      By having the team agree to the termination of the contract. The team has a strong roster and they obviously thought they didn’t need her that much. And it is possible that they’d like to save some money too since their men’s side has some tax problems at the moment.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      You’re right on a basic level but if she is an unhappy wantaway player not being used too much, and they may not be paying salaries reflecting smart economics, that’s $14,000 a week they save. They could have held out for term or a transfer fee but we wouldn’t pay and it’s not always the best personnel management strategy to play hardball. Some other player at Lyon or interested in Lyon maybe decides they don’t want to be stuck there also.

      • orangecleats says:

        So we agree that they had no reason to force her to stay? You said it, why damage their team’s reputation by doing that when they have nothing to gain?
        Another thing is, according to nwsl/ussf Rapinoe was “on loan” to OL which might suggest that her contract with them was secondary to the one she has in the US. Meaning that there possibly was some kind of provision made for this scenario.
        Anyway, all these things don’t really matter. Both sides are moving forward now.

  12. dawn kiebals says:

    Ridiculous. European mens’ leagues are top heavy, but Michael Bradley gets roasted for coming to MLS. These comments are tainted with sterotypes of female sensibilities. She cant get a pass for leaving a champions league team while the boys are letdowns because they “gave up.” Finally, if you all feel this way about her decision, you owe a few men apologies.

    • orangecleats says:

      If you believe your comment was relevant in this discussion then you are the one being ridiculous. This has nothing to do with “female sensibilities”. It’s all about a player making a decision to do what they consider best for themselves at the time. And it certainly has nothing to do with other cases of male players. If you think people are unfairly criticizing men for similar decisions then bring it up with those who do that.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      It’s a fair point as far as it goes but the NWSL is a top notch league which makes it more like an English player returning to the PL from trying Serie A. Women in the prime of their careers come here for the opportunity. MLS for men is a more obvious drop in quality.

      To be fair, though, the usual counter-arguments would also apply to your argument. If Lyon sits her more than she likes or thinks is fair — and why in your right mind would you sit her — then PT here is better than unreliability there, regardless of the pro soccer league hierarchy.

  13. Sue says:

    As the NWSL gets more attention, I predict that you will see more European players shift into this league. I would like to see Tobin Heath return from France. She is basically healing and rehabing her right foot injury and why hang out there when you can hang out and home and play the entire season with the Thorns….that’s my vote. Hopefully all US players overseas will return….