Why U.S. women’s national team superstar Alex Morgan is moving to France

Alex Morgan
Morgan wants to be “the best player in the world.” (Getty Images)

The first repercussion of the apparent collective bargaining agreement stalemate between U.S. Soccer and its women’s national team arrived on Tuesday when superstar striker Alex Morgan announced that she’ll be spending the first half of 2017 with Olympique Lyon in France.

She finally signs after club chairman Jean-Michel Aulas, who turned the club’s men’s team into a powerhouse and has done much the same for the women’s side, creepily recruited Morgan on Twitter for more than a year.

But the only reason that she is capable of leaving the National Women’s Soccer League, where she starred for the Orlando Pride in its inaugural season as the biggest draw in the league in 2016, is that the women’s national team and U.S. Soccer have an expiring collective bargaining agreement. Or, if you want to be pedantic, an expiring memorandum of understanding to an already-expired collective bargaining agreement. The CBA, after all, requires women’s national teamers to play at home in the NWSL because – and here’s where it gets a tad complicated – their six-figure national team salaries include $56,000 to play for their league clubs. That was the 2016 figure, anyway.

But with the MOA to the CBA running out Dec. 31 and no agreement on a new deal apparently in sight in an increasingly ugly fight over equal pay with the men’s team, Morgan is free to play overseas.

Lyon is the preeminent women’s team in Europe, and quite possibly the world. When fellow national team star Megan Rapinoe played there in 2013 and 2014, she earned $14,000 a month – a salary not paid anywhere else in the women’s game.

According to a statement by an “obviously disappointed” Pride, the 27-year-old Morgan will return after the European season concludes in May or early June, meaning she’ll miss a month or two of the six-month NWSL season.

The question, of course, is why?

Morgan is a big star here, making many multiples of her soccer earnings in endorsements – reportedly pushing her income well into seven figures – but those opportunities will obviously by hampered by distance, even if Morgan will be back whenever the national team plays.

It also leads you to wonder just how far off a CBA agreement really is, a process in which Morgan is heavily involved…