In an article on The Players’ Tribune, Alex Morgan has confirmed that she is headed to Olympique Lyonnais next month on a half-season contract and will stay through the end of their season in June, with the option to extend her contract another season.
Welcome @alexmorgan13 !! #teamOL !! pic.twitter.com/nmnYqs92a7— Olympique Lyonnais (@OL) December 20, 2016
Morgan gave her reasoning in her statement:
I hope that this change will help push my game to another level. I hope that training with these incredible athletes each day, and learning a unique style of play, is exactly what I need, and that it will help me find that next gear. Importantly, I will also be immersed in a soccer culture that I believe is precisely what I need at this point in my career. It has always been a dream of mine to “live” soccer and to compete in the Champions League.
Plenty of USWNT players have cited Europe as a place for them to refine their games. In this instance, though she’s already a leading striker for the team, she’ll be following in the footsteps of her teammates Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, and others.
There’s two other factors to consider here, the first being the status of WNT negotiations with US Soccer over their collective bargaining agreement, and the second being the pay that Lyon is able to offer, with those two items being inextricably linked.
On the first, Morgan confirmed to Grant Wahl that the “uncertainty over the labor situation between the U.S. women’s national team players and U.S. Soccer had an influence on her decision to sign with Lyon.”
On the second, there’s been no confirmed number yet, but Lyon is almost certainly offering Morgan better money than she’d get in NWSL for the same amount of work. Considering they were willing to pay Megan Rapinoe about $14K a month, Morgan is probably getting comparable or better money.
The Champions League final is June 1, giving Morgan five months with Lyon. Lowballing at a rate of $15K/month, that’s $75K plus whatever bonus might be involved if they do win Champions League. If negotiations fall through, then she’s covered. If they don’t, then she’ll return to Orlando and get paid for playing with them too. Consider that according to the old CBA, WNT players in the highest of three payment tiers make $72K from USSF if NWSL exists and $101K if it doesn’t. So Lyon is probably offering Morgan something north of $100K to make it worth her while.
Overall it’s a good move for Morgan. She’ll get paid, get a shot at a nice trophy, and will probably bring back some new elements to her game. It doesn’t totally disrupt the Orlando Pride’s roster either (Tom Sermanni has probably been planning for compensating for a roster without her since the first sniff of a rumor about Lyon passed his beautiful mustache) and it might help draw more American eyeballs to Champions League. Plus, all that French food and wine.