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USWNT star Tobin Heath’s NWSL rights explained

(Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

All eyes are on Tobin Heath as rumors mount of a possible NWSL return for the USWNT star.

The veteran forward left Arsenal in April after suffering a season-ending hamstring injury, returning to the United States to focus on rehabilitation. Heath joined the Gunners in September via free transfer after competing with Manchester United during the 2020-2021 Women’s Super League season.

The American made 18 appearances with Arsenal, scoring three goals for the club during her stint.

All the while, Heath’s NWSL rights have remained with Racing Louisville. The club acquired her playing rights in the 2021 expansion draft from the Portland Thorns, where Health had played since 2013.

Christen Press’s rights were obtained by Louisville alongside Health’s and were since traded to Angel City FC, where Press is competing for the Los Angeles expansion club in its debut season.

In exchange for Press, Louisville received ACFC’s first-round pick in the 2022 Draft, $75,000 in allocation money and full roster protection from ACFC in the NWSL expansion draft.

Whether or not Heath will receive a similar treatment to Press is still up in the air, with the 34-year-old yet to confirm a return to the NWSL.

Meg Linehan of the Athletic reported in July 2021 that Press and Heath had no intention of playing for Racing Louisville, with former Louisville coach Christy Holly seemingly confirming the news, telling reporters in July 2021 that he hadn’t spoken with the stars.

“The players that I would like to focus on are the players that are inside that building, and the players that actually opted to be at this club, and actually picked up the phone and talked to us,” the former coach said.

While circumstances have changed since the initial reporting on Health, on Press’s side at least that story has borne out.

OL Reign coach Laura Harvey has added fuel to rumors of Heath’s move to the Seattle club, neither confirming nor denying the possibility of acquiring her rights.

“I mean, I think Tobin is an excellent player, obviously, her rights are currently held by Louisville, so I think that’s something that I’m not sure if anything is going to happen there,” Harvey told reporters Friday. “I think right now it’s all up in the air a little bit. But I think Tobin could be a fantastic player and has shown she’s a fantastic player in this league, but as of right now, no big news to share on that.”