Mallory Pugh has reportedly decided to leave UCLA in order to sign a professional deal, according to Sports Illustrated.
Pugh enrolled at UCLA this January and will leave before playing a single official soccer game for the Bruins.
At the beginning of 2016, Pugh made her senior national team debut against Ireland in a friendly match, in which she scored. Pugh has since gone on to earn 22 caps for the national team.
Pugh is the first high-profile player since Lindsey Horan in 2012 to forego college. Horan was going to attend North Carolina but signed a professional contract with Paris Saint Germain instead.
It is rumored Pugh will either sign with the National Women’s Soccer League or go abroad where she reportedly has offers from Olympique Lyon and PSG.
Pugh’s decision to go pro could spark other players to forego college or leave while they still have remaining years of eligibility. This is possible due to the growth of women’s soccer around the world. Going abroad to more established leagues in Europe as well as remaining stateside to play in the NWSL, which is now in its fifth season, are both now viable options.
In the past players have had to stay the full four years in college because of a lack of a next step in many cases. With more established professional leagues for women forming across American sports more and more players will likely leave college early, as is the case in men’s sports. In the WNBA it is slightly more difficult as a player is permitted to leave college if her 22nd birthday falls in the calendar year of the draft, which is one of the factors for the lack of popularity.
We have seen going pro become more common in women's college basketball with players like Jewell Loyd and, more recently, Alisha Gray and Kaela Davis leaving school.
This trend has yet to reach the University of Connecticut but it would not surprise me if this changed in the near future. During her time in college, UConn great Breanna Stewart was questioned about leaving early.
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Obviously, I'm only 20, so I can't do it, but I don't think I'd want to,” Stewart said. “You come here, college is the best four years of your life. Plus, I have my sights on winning four."
Antonio Salazar is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.