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Jan. 3, 2017 — A team, a league, a sport in flux

Today, it was announced that U.S. women’s soccer star Crystal Dunn would not re-up her contract with the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit and instead has signed with Chelsea Ladies in England’s Women’s Super League.

This follows on the announcement that Alex Morgan would be joining the French side Olympique Lyonnaise. Unlike Morgan, whose deal is for half a season, Dunn is committing herself to Chelsea for the entire 2017 campaign.

This is not only an earth-shattering development in women’s soccer, but in women’s sports.

Dunn is not just any player, but a player in her physical prime at 24 years of age. She was the NWSL’s league MVP in 2015. She won the award as the first alternate for the U.S. national team during their World Cup run.

But the move comes during some rough times for Dunn’s former employers. The U.S. women’s soccer team is currently playing under a several-year-old agreement, but the women have been clamoring for better terms for the better part of two years.

In addition, some heavy-handed tactics on the part of Washington Spirit management has led to the virtual liquidation of a team which was 25 seconds away from winning last year’s championship final. Gone are Dunn and fellow national teamer Ali Krieger, traded to Orlando. Also gone are crowd favorite Megan Oyster, future star Christine Nairn, and last year’s leading scorer Estefania Banini, who signed with Spanish side Valencia.

Noticing something here? You have well-backed women’s teams such as Chelsea, Lyon, and Valencia scooping up NWSL players; meanwhile, U.S. Soccer seemingly are unable to come to a fair contract with its women’s national team pool.

And just when the NWSL is heading into its fifth season, this is the worst thing that could happen. U.S. Soccer is playing a form of hardball; no women’s national team games are scheduled on the USSF’s website, even though the French Football Federation’s twitter feed indicates that the second She Believes Cup will begin March 1 in Chester, Pa.

Of course, you wonder whether Spirit management is looking to dump any members of the U.S. national team pool in case the players decide to go on strike. With a team of no-names, it makes sense depending on the form any job action takes.

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