The “Manchester Derby” between Manchester United and Manchester City usually determines if the city is red or blue. But now the city is fully red, white and blue with the arrival of four members of the 2019 Women’s World Cup winning USWNT side in Manchester.
Tobin Heath and Christen Press are at Manchester United while Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle joined Manchester City. Meanwhile American striker Alex Morgan moved to Tottenham Hotspur from NWSL side Orlando Pride.
The “American Invasion” is predicated in part due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as players look for consistent playing time in light of what’s happening in the US.
“I think obviously right now there’s like a lot of uncertainty, especially in the US, just with the global pandemic, there’s a lot of question marks,” Lavelle told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies.
“I think in this league (WSL) there was a lot more certainty around it. And it’s a great league. It’s attracting a lot of great international players and I think for me, I just felt like it was a really good opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up.”
Lavelle and Mewis aren’t the first US players to suit up for Manchester City in the WSL either. Striker Carli Lloyd signed for the Citizens back in 2017.
“I’m teammates with Carli Lloyd and she had been here, and she just spoke so highly of it,” said Lavelle.
“I just felt like it was an environment and a culture that was really going to help push me and make me better. I had always wanted to experience playing overseas at some point in my career. I wasn’t sure exactly when that was, but England in general really piqued my interest.”
And it’s not just Americans wanting to play in the WSL.
“I think it’s growing top to bottom too. It’s not just a couple of really good teams. I think you’re seeing it’s becoming way more competitive and all teams are attracting good players. I think it’s just going to make the league even stronger,” said Lavelle.
When asked if the influx of players to England could lead to a shift in power and in terms of the women’s game away from North America, the US star said she didn’t see it that way.
“I think the more players that are playing in different leagues, it’s going to just continue to grow the game as a whole.
“Obviously there’s that bit of rivalry and you want the US league to be the best, but I think in the same sense, the more all the leagues can grow in the world, I think it’s good for women’s soccer,” added Lavelle.
Moving the sport past coronavirus
After Lavelle secured the trophy with her mazy run and finish against the Netherlands in the final of the Women’s World Cup in July 2019, the buzz and hype surrounding the women’s game was at peak levels.
But the arrival of the coronavirus changed all of that. The conversation soon shifted to financial worries. And while that may still be a problem for a number of clubs, Lavelle doesn’t see the enthusiasm for the sport waning.
“We had so much momentum coming off the World Cup; everybody did. I think there was so much excitement about the women’s game,” Lavelle said.
“But I think from my experience, I played in the NWSL tournament that we had in July, and there was a huge following and TV numbers were like higher than they’ve ever been.
“So I think it’s a great testament that the excitement and hype around the woman’s game is still here and it made it through the global pandemic and it’s going to keep getting better.”
So what is the ultimate goal for Lavelle and her teammates this season? Silverware of course. Asked what trophy she’d most like to win, Lavelle doesn’t hesitate. It’s the Champions League.
“I grew up watching Champions League and I feel like I never thought it was a possibility that I could be competing in Champions League myself,” Lavelle said excitedly. “So it’s really cool to have this opportunity to do that.”
Before she can hoist that trophy, though, she first must navigate the league matches. The WSL resumes on the first weekend of October when Lavelle will go head-to-head with her US teammate Morgan, as Spurs visit Manchester City.