U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan recently announced a move overseas. Her reasons for doing so are directly connected to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in America. Women’s sports are in a precarious position due to COVID-19. With the Olympics on the horizon, Morgan does not have time to wait.
Morgan had big plans for 2020 before COVID-19
This would always be a landmark year in the life of Alex Morgan. That remains true, even if life has laid waste to her and everyone else’s plans for the year. After scoring six goals and helping the U.S. win their fourth World Cup, she focused on family for the first part of the year. Morgan announced her pregnancy with her husband and fellow soccer player Servando Carrasco in October 2019 and gave birth to their daughter, Charlie on May 7.
Despite the intense physical toll that comes with making a baby, Morgan was still intent on returning to the field for the Orlando Pride in time to get into shape for the Olympics this past summer. Obviously, that didn’t happen because of the whole “once-in-a-generation pandemic forcing most of the world back into their homes for months at a time” thing.
COVID-19 preys on the lowest rungs of the social hierarchy. In the context of sports, this means women’s sports are at the greatest risk from the virus. The NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) deserves a ton of credit for being the first sports league to return to action (although Orlando wasn’t involved in the bubble) but they did so because they league couldn’t survive for much longer without any sort of revenue.
The league needed a loan from the government just to pay player salaries, reports the New York Times. Morgan has a lot more money than most female soccer players, but that doesn’t change the fact that the NWSL season she expected to return to isn’t happening.
Her Tottenham move was surprising, but sensible
The league has returned to its home markets for the Fall Series, but this tournament will only provide four matches for each team in the league, and it’s unclear when the next season will begin or how it will be structured. The extra time to get ready for the Olympics will help Morgan, but she still needs to play in more games to get her fitness up. (She hasn’t played at all since injuring her knee last August.)
Morgan will get plenty of minutes playing for Tottenham Hotspur Women, reports CBS Sports, who she has signed a short-term deal with until the end of 2020. The move came out of nowhere, but it makes sense for Morgan and gives Tottenham a star to lift the team for at least a few months.
She’s not the only U.S. star who’s moved to England to play
Morgan is the latest in a string of USWNT players to make the move across the pond for more playing time, although she is the only one to move to England without a running mate. Midfielders Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle both signed for Manchester City, while Christen Press and Tobin Heath opted for their crosstown rivals, Manchester United.
Each player has moved for the same reason: to find an environment where they can consistently train and play with less fear about the coronavirus. Even though England appears to be entering the second wave of the pandemic, it is still safer to be there rather than America, where the response to the virus has been chaotic at best and may get worse in the next few months due to the oncoming flu season and the national elections.
And the league Morgan and her fellow stars are joining is no slouch. The WSL is on the rise thanks to an increase in investment from several teams, details SB Nation, most notably when English side Chelsea signed Australian superstar Sam Kerr away from the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars last year.
Morgan will see some familiar faces in the Spurs locker room. Defenders Shelina Zadorsky and Alanna Kennedy both played for Orlando before moving to Tottenham in August. Morgan, her new club and her considerable fanbase back home will be hoping that she finds her previous sharpness as soon as possible.