This past week, Carli Lloyd, the megastar of the U.S. women’s national soccer team and two-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, became the fourth — fourth! — national-team player to sign with a major European club instead of playing with the National Women’s Soccer League.
Lloyd will play half a season with Manchester City, which is about the same deal as Alex Morgan has with Paris St. Germain. In addition to them, Crystal Dunn is playing a full season with Chelsea, and Heather O’Reilly is playing the 2017 season for Arsenal.
The Lloyd signing should, frankly, scare fans and sponsors in America to death. This should not be happening at the inception of the fifth season of the primary USSF-sanctioned Division I women’s soccer league.
You see, not so long ago in Europe, women’s football clubs were little more than an afterthought, an auxiliary way to market the name of the club without spending any money. But an influx of Middle Eastern oil money has changed all that.Note that Lloyd’s Manchester City side is sponsored by Etihad Airways. For Arsenal and PSG, it’s Emirates Airways. Chelsea is owned by Russian oil oligarch Roman Abramovich.
Lloyd’s is the capstone signing, showing that the economic balance in women’s soccer has tilted away from the NWSL. And it shows me that the U.S. clubs and the national federation need to step up the sponsorship game radically.