December 6, 2022
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NWSL is in the middle of its first free agency

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United States women’s soccer legend Kelley O’Hara this past week cemented her mark in National Women’s Soccer League history by becoming the league’s first-ever free agent to sign with a new team.

On the first night of NWSL free agency, the USWNT star revealed at a “Men in Blazers” live show in New York City that she had signed with Gotham FC, leaving the Washington Spirit for her former club.

“I’ve got a little news for New York tonight,” she said on stage, pulling on a Gotham FC sweatshirt. Images of O’Hara in Gotham’s iconic black and sky blue colors quickly made the social media rounds.

The news essentially broke the soccer internet — and made sure the league remained top of mind in the middle of what would usually be a quiet off-season.

Free agency is new for the NWSL, which just finished its tenth season. A restricted form of free agency was introduced by way of the NWSL and NWSL Players Association’s historic collective bargaining agreement that was ratified in February.

Team United States defender Kelley O'Hara (5) and Team Australia forward Caitlin Foord (9) battle for the ball in the second half during the bronze medal match Thursday, Aug 5, 2021 during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium, Ibaraki, Japan.

The first round of free agency is open to eligible players with expiring contracts who have played for at least six seasons in the league. And though the free agency window opened on Aug. 26 for players to begin negotiating their new contracts, they were only able to start signing with new clubs on Nov. 15.

Several players had already signed new contracts or extensions with their current clubs — but O’Hara is the first to jump to a different franchise. She was a member of the 2015 and 2019 World Cup winning teams, and won Olympic gold with the team in 2012. Though she hasn’t been on the roster in recent call-ups because of an injury, it’s likely she’ll be at a future training camp, according to The Athletic. While the defender most recently played for Washington Spirit, she previously played for Gotham FC from 2013 to 2017, when the club was called Sky Blue.

With free agency still ongoing, there’s likely to be more offseason news out of the league as several players’ futures remain up in the air.

It’s easy for sports fans to take free agency for granted. In so many leagues, free agency has become a season on its own. Rumors swirl across social media. Analysts and broadcast shows speculate on what’s to come. Players can bet on themselves and earn better pay.





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