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The future of USWNT stars Christen Press and Tobin Heath

CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES/TWITTER @MANUTDWOMEN

After opting out of the National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWSL) inaugural Challenge Cup, U.S. national team (USNT) star forwards Christen Press and Tobin Heath signed a one-season contract with Manchester United in the FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL). Unlike their national teammates — Rose Lavelle, Alex Morgan and Sam Mewis — the 32-year-olds have not confirmed an NWSL return. 

After being left unprotected in the 2020 NWSL Expansion Draft, both Heath and Press were selected by newcomer Racing Louisville FC. The club now holds the pair’s NWSL playing rights. 

History with club play

Christen Press

In her professional career, Press has notably played for Göteborg FC, reached the 2014 Champions League Final with Tyresö FC, captained the Chicago Red Stars and spent two years with the — now-dissolved — Utah Royals. 

Tobin Heath

After the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league folded in 2012, Heath spent a season with top French club Paris Saint-Germain. She returned stateside following the NWSL’s founding in 2013. With 79 appearances, Heath has spent her entire NWSL career with the Portland Thorns. 

What’s Next?

Re-sign with Manchester United

Former United Manager Casey Stoney was integral to the initial signing of the two-time World Cup winners. Press made 16 appearances for the Reds while Heath’s season ended after 11 games following an ankle injury. United’s failure to qualify for the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League, Stoney’s recent departure, along with Heath’s silence indicate that neither intends to re-sign. 

Return to the NWSL and play for Racing Louisville

“I think my biggest focus quite honestly is the players that are here,” said Racing Louisville Head Coach Christy Holly when asked about Press and Heath. Having not publicly acknowledged the acquisition and with the 2021 NWSL season underway, it’s safe to assume that both are not eager to suit up for Racing. 

Sign with a New Club

With a combined 313 appearances, 79 assists and 93 goals for their country, Heath or Press could arguably fit into the starting eleven of almost any professional team. But there hasn’t been word on if the teammates are actively pursuing new offers. 

Press last played for Manchester on May 9 and Heath is currently in the U.S rehabbing a knee injury. It’s difficult to imagine that either will rush a new signing. 

Focus on national team duty and sign for a 2022 NWSL expansion team

Two expansion teams are expected to join the league in 2022—Los Angeles and Sacramento—with the latter rumoured to change its territorial rights to San Diego. 

Christen Press grew up and played college soccer in California and continues to hint at her desire to play for Angel City.

Heath has yet to express interest in an NWSL expansion club but previously played for the California-based Pali Blues in the USL-W League in 2009. 

Press or Heath may opt out of playing at a professional club for 2021 and negotiate with Louisville to trade their playing rights to an expansion team.

In the meantime, the two Olympians could use the FA WSL off-season to participate in the USNT’s June Summer Series and stay fit for the Tokyo Olympics. 

What now?

One thing’s for certain: Christen Press and Tobin Heath are looking to make an impression on USNT Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski and secure their spots on the Olympic Roster. 

What the future holds for the two at the club level remains up in the air, but they will definitely be ones to watch.

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