Crystal Dunn may be heading to 2023 NWSL champions Gotham FC for the 2024 season, with there reportedly being “mutual interest” between the sides.

Dunn is one of the NWSL’s biggest free agents this offseason, having announced in November that she would not return to Portland. Now, according to The Equalizer, Gotham is in the mix to sign the World Cup and three-time NWSL champion. The New York/New Jersey team has eyed Dunn since last season, the report says.

The midfielder grew up in New York and played college soccer on the East Coast for the University of North Carolina. She also spent time with the Washington Spirit and North Carolina Courage before being traded to Portland in 2020.

The news of the mutual interest comes after CBS Sports reported that the Orlando Pride could offer Dunn more than $400,000. But, according to Steph Yang of The Athletic, the Pride confirmed they made a “significant offer” to Dunn, but that they are no longer in talks with the star.

The Spirit are also reportedly interested in signing Dunn, but the 2021 NWSL champions have yet to fill their head coaching vacancy.

Dunn is one of several high-profile stars on the free agency market this NWSL offseason.

Rose Lavelle is back on the U.S. women’s national team roster for the first time since the World Cup, with interim head coach Twila Kilgore saying that the 28-year-old midfielder is “in very good form.”

Lavelle was announced as part of the roster on Nov. 20 for the final two games of the year for the USWNT. She had been dealing with a lingering knee injury, having missed all but four NWSL regular-season games. But she returned for the playoffs, helping OL Reign to the NWSL championship match.

The 28-year-old midfielder looked sharp in the postseason, despite having played limited minutes in the regular season. And it didn’t go unnoticed by those at the USWNT.

“I thought she was excellent,” Kilgore said of Lavelle’s championship performance, in which she scored a goal for OL Reign in a 2-1 loss to Gotham FC. “And she’s excellent today. So we’re really excited about her being healthy, being in the environment and her feeling good, and we expect big things from her.”

While it is unclear how many minutes Lavelle will play, she did start in the Reign’s final two matches of the posteason, playing a full 90 minutes against Gotham and 82 minutes in game prior.

The USWNT will face China at 3 p.m. ET Saturday at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Sam Mewis will not return to the Kansas City Current, with the club announcing her departure on social media.

The team account posted an image of Mewis, along with the caption: “Thank you for being part of this club @sammymewy, we wish you all the best.” The 31-year-old midfielder enters the NWSL offseason as a free agent.

Mewis was traded to Kansas City in late 2021, but she made just two appearances for the club as part of the NWSL Challenge Cup in March 2022. The 31-year-old midfielder has been sidelined since then with a chronic knee injury, and she detailed her ongoing recovery on a recent episode of the “Snacks” podcast.

The initial injury occurred during a November 2017 match for the U.S. women’s national team, after which she missed roughly six months. Even while dealing with the “really serious injury” to her knee cartilage, she returned to the USWNT and the NWSL, starring at the 2019 World Cup and winning two NWSL titles with the North Carolina Courage.

Mewis played through the injury until 2021, when her knee stopped responding positively to rehabilitation. She won a bronze medal at the 2021 Olympics and played those two matches for the Current, but has not played since then.

She underwent knee surgery in January 2023, which followed an arthroscopic surgery in August 2021. Mewis described the most recent procedure as “a big deal,” which is why she remained mum about it up until earlier this month. The surgery placed cartilage donor grafts in her knee, which she called a “really difficult decision.”

“I felt like I had taken all of these steps to try to get back to playing and I just kind of kept hitting a wall,” she told her “Snacks” co-host Lynn Williams. “I kept failing in my rehab and having to start over and try all these new things and get more injections.

“And we just had reached the end of the line, where I didn’t like any of the options that were offered to me, which were basically stop or try and get this big surgery. And so it took me like months to make this decision

“There were no guarantees when it came to the surgery either. It was a big surgery. I was on crutches for eight weeks and no impact for, like, eight months.”

She added on “Snacks” that her goal for the future is to “get as healthy as possible.” She’s still in the gym and attending physical therapy, and she is working toward getting her knee back “as good as it can get.”

The free agency signing period for the 2024 NWSL season has officially begun, with both restricted and unrestricted free agents now able to sign contracts with clubs of their choosing. Unrestricted free agents can sign with new teams immediately, while restricted free agents can also receive matching qualifying offers from their current clubs.

As in last year’s inaugural free agency, the players with the most freedom are established league veterans, and therefore some of the most valuable players in the league. Signings might start slowly due to free agents being exempt from the upcoming two-team expansion draft, but it’s reasonable to expect another league shake-up before the offseason is over.

Here are a few of the best-known free agents in this year’s class, as well as the journey that got them here and what they might do next.

Crystal Dunn, midfielder/forward

After winning an NWSL Championship with the Portland Thorns in 2022, Crystal Dunn announced right as this year’s offseason began that she’ll be moving on to another squad. She joked during the Skills Challenge at 2023 Championship weekend that she was “looking for a job,” and according to her Instagram, she has already moved out of the Pacific Northwest.

Dunn’s decision to tell the public about her plans right away suggests she might be ahead of the game in picking her next destination, whether it be in the NWSL or abroad. Dunn has already played for the Washington Spirit and the North Carolina Courage in her career, and she has family ties on the East Coast. It seems feasible she could choose to join Gotham’s championship-winning midfield, or even listen to an offer from the Orlando Pride, who have an excess amount of allocation money at their disposal.

Rose Lavelle, midfielder

Rose Lavelle has already taken a circuitous route to her first-ever free agency period. She was drafted into the NWSL by the Boston Breakers and moved to the Washington Spirit after her former club folded. She then was traded to OL Reign in 2020 while playing for Manchester City in England, a move she said came as a surprise to her at the time.

Despite the circumstances that landed Lavelle in Seattle, she’s thrived in her time there. The Reign have a consistent midfield that other clubs envy, and when healthy, Lavelle has had the freedom to pull the strings as the team’s midfield maestro under manager Laura Harvey. Her fit with the team was on full display during the Reign’s 2023 NWSL Championship loss, which might encourage the 28-year-old to extend her contract with the club. But Lavelle isn’t afraid to take leaps in her career, and finding a new home abroad or closer to the region of her NWSL beginnings wouldn’t shock anyone.

Mallory Swanson played just two NWSL games this season after tearing her patella tendon in April. (Daniel Bartel/USA TODAY Sports)

Mallory Swanson, forward

There are a number of reasons to believe that USWNT superstar Mallory Swanson might be open to re-signing with the Chicago Red Stars. Swanson’s husband Dansby is locked into a multi-year contract with the Chicago Cubs, and Swanson herself has flourished upon joining the Red Stars in 2021. Her play in Chicago catapulted her back into the U.S. women’s national team conversation, and she’s been working with their trainers in her slow journey back to the pitch after a patella tendon injury.

But the Red Stars have extensive roster work to do after a last-place finish in 2023, and they don’t currently have a general manager or head coach to make promises to top players who might be worried about the club’s formerly tenuous environment. New ownership appears to be steering the team back on track, but players of Swanson’s caliber will likely have to be reassured that the Red Stars will be contending for the postseason again in the future.

Emily Sonnett, defender/midfielder

Emily Sonnett might be one of the most intriguing free agent prospects in this year’s class. After being drafted by the Portland Thorns in 2016, Sonnett won an NWSL Championship as a center-back with the Washington Spirit in 2021 following a trade from the Orlando Pride (for whom she never actually suited up). Then in 2023, new Spirit manager Mark Parsons abruptly traded Sonnett to OL Reign on NWSL draft day, a move that took the 29-year-old by surprise.

Since joining Seattle, Sonnett has reinvented herself as a player, becoming a steady presence in the defensive midfield, first for the Reign and then on the international stage with the USWNT. Now a free agent, she could slot into any team’s defense or midfield and command space with confidence. As a player who has had to abide by trades in the past, she’s likely looking forward to making her own decision, whether that means staying with the Reign or landing somewhere entirely new.

María Sánchez's scoring talents were somewhat stifled in Houston this season. (Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports)

María Sánchez, forward

While she is a restricted free agent, María Sánchez is the type of player any NWSL club could shape an attack around. She was originally drafted into the league by the Chicago Red Stars, but hit her stride in Liga MX Femenil, playing for Chivas and then UANL Tigres. She returned to the NWSL with the Houston Dash, first on loan and then full-time at the beginning of the 2022 season. Sánchez is a talented winger, with quality on the ball and the ability to make defenders miss and send solid crosses into teammates in the box.

Despite the talent they’ve compiled, the Dash have struggled under numerous managers to convert their style of play into a compelling attacking structure. Houston scored the fewest goals in 2023, nine fewer than the next-worst attack, even after putting together a high-flying frontline that included Diana Ordoñez and Nichelle Prince. With the Dash again looking for a permanent coach to put all the pieces together, Sánchez might be convinced to extend her time in Texas to see out the roster’s original vision. But it also wouldn’t be surprising if the Mexico national team player has her eye on a club that’s already scoring goals to optimize her potential.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

The NWSL is kicking off its second year of free agency, with U.S. women’s national team stars Rose Lavelle, Crystal Dunn and Mallory Swanson among the big names.

How does free agency work?

The free agency period, which began Friday, will look a little bit different than it did upon its debut in 2022. Last year, all players on expiring contracts with at least six years of NWSL experience were eligible for free agency.

This year, the pool has expanded. Any player with at least five years of service and an expiring contact is eligible for unrestricted free agency, while any player with at least three years of service and an expiring contract is eligible for restricted free agency.

Unrestricted free agents can negotiate a new contract with any NWSL club, including expansion clubs Bay FC and Utah Royals FC.

Restricted free agents also can negotiate with any NWSL club, but a player’s current team will have seven days to match any offer received, in salary, bonus structure and years. If the team does not match the offer, the player can sign with the new team, as spelled out in the NWSL’s collective bargaining agreement.

Players can sign contracts with new teams for the 2024 season starting on Nov. 20. Seven players eligible for free agency, including Gotham FC’s Sinead Farrelly, have a mutual option with their current club, which would have to be exercised on or before Nov. 20.

Which players are eligible?

The full list of 75 eligible NWSL free agents for the upcoming offseason is available here. Of those, 20 are restricted free agents, and 55 are unrestricted free agents.

Top unrestricted free agents include:

  • Tierna Davidson, Chicago Red Stars
  • Crystal Dunn, Portland Thorns
  • Sarah Gorden, Angel City FC
  • Casey Krueger, Chicago Red Stars
  • Savannah McCaskill, Angel City FC
  • Rose Lavelle, OL Reign
  • Emily Sonnett, OL Reign
  • Mallory Swanson, Chicago Red Stars

Top restricted free agents include:

  • Emina Ekic, Racing Louisville
  • Emily Fox, North Carolina Courage
  • Madison Hammond, Angel City FC