The Seattle Reign have officially been sold, with the OL Groupe selling the club to an ownership group that includes MLS’s Seattle Sounders and private equity firm the Carlyle Group.

The team was sold for a reported $58 million, after being acquired by OL Groupe in 2019 for $3.5 million.

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"It's all about the potential going forward," Alex Popov of the Carlyle Groupe told ESPN. "And frankly, our starting point was off. You know, that's what attracted a lot of us to, including ourselves here at Carlyle, to think about investing in women's sport. We have seen the potential."

The valuation is the latest of rising numbers in the NWSL. San Diego Wave FC is in the process of a sale that values the team between $113 and $120 million

In the sale announcement, chief business officer of the Reign Maya Mendoza-Exstrom said that the team has no plans to move from Lumen Field. 

"It feels a little bit like we have the gritty startup mentality of an expansion franchise in this exciting moment, but we have this benefit of having a dedicated fan base that has been dedicated to this club, even though it has moved a ton and changed a ton over the last few years," she told ESPN. "So, I think the opportunity just to root this club in place — Lumen is our home. The club's not moving anywhere."

OL Reign coach Laura Harvey still thinks the NWSL is as good as it gets when it comes to domestic leagues.

On Wednesday, Harvey likened playing in the NWSL to playing in the Champions League every single week.

Her comments come as she herself has been reported to be on the shortlist to replace Emma Hayes at Chelsea.

“When I first came over to the States the thought of playing in the States was on 90 percent of any player around the world’s bucket list to do,” she told Attacking Third. “I think the Champions League has become something that is on a lot of player’s bucket lists to do now too, which is great for the game.

“I think one thing about the NWSL: it’s really difficult to play in. For me, it’s like playing in the Champions League every week. And I’ve coached in it so I can say that. I think that the pace at which the games are played in this league is like international level. It’s hard to play here, and that’s a really positive thing but it’s a challenging thing too. I think leagues around the world look at the NWSL and go, ‘We’ve gotta get more competitive within our league to try and match that.’”

To Harvey, the league is unmatched commercially.

“As a brand and a market, there’s nothing like the NWSL around the world,” she said. But there’s more that the league can do to grow the soccer side. And a lot of that includes investment in team personnel and facilities.

“I think what we can do to continue to build forward is make sure that we put the right things in place to make sure that the product that’s on our field is the best it can possibly be,” she said.

Seattle Reign FC is back.

On Tuesday, OL Reign announced that it will return to the club’s original name, Seattle Reign FC, as well as the original crest. The move was announced on social media with a video and the Reign account writing that “the restoration has begun.”

The updated crest has a color palette differing from the original Seattle Reign logo, with gold replacing the original silver. The new shade of gold will be titled Seattle Reign Gold and symbolizes the club’s three NWSL Shields.

“Today is the start of a new chapter for our unique club, fans and community,” said Seattle Reign CEO Vincent Berthillot. “Bringing back the club’s original name and identity from the 2013 season as the club prepares to enter a new era is our way of honoring the history of this club while respecting the progress and success we’ve experienced firsthand.

“Seattle Reign FC was a founding club in this growing league, and our OGs, our supporters and our community have remained by our side from the very beginning to help pave the way for the future.”

The transformation back to Seattle Reign FC comes as the club inches closer to the completion of its sale. Despite being a popular logo, the Reign became OL Reign when purchased by OL Groupe in 2020.

There have been no updates on when a new owner could be announced, although the MLS’ Seattle Sounders are expected to be part of the new ownership group.

“When considering the opportunity in this moment to link our past to the future, there was no doubt about the connection this mark has to the legacy and identity of this storied club,” said Michelle Haines, who’s vice president of marketing and ticketing for the Reign. “Ultimately, this refreshed look is an embodiment of our roots in Seattle, honors the dedication of our fans, reflects the caliber of our players and aligns with our core values.”

Reigning NWSL champions Gotham FC are adding to their remarkable free agency haul, announcing the signing of World Cup champions Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett on Thursday.

Sonnett and Lavelle are the third and fourth USWNT mainstays to sign with the New Jersey club this year after midfielder Crystal Dunn and defender Tierna Davidson also reached multi-year deals with the team. All four World Cup champions will remain with the club through 2026.

Both Lavelle and Sonnett join Gotham most recently from OL Reign, where Lavelle won an NWSL shield and both players reached the 2023 title game (losing in the championship match to Gotham.) 

“Rose is an amazing talent, and we are very excited to have her as a part of the club,” said Amorós in a team release. “She is a very exciting player to watch because of her creative and technical abilities.”

Sonnett is a two-time NWSL champion, first with the Portland Thorns in 2017 and the Washington Spirit in 2021. The 30-year-old flourished in 2023 after making a position change from center-back to defensive midfielder, becoming a USWNT starter at the position during and after the 2023 World Cup.

Both Lavelle and Sonnett are also well-known at the international level, winning the 2019 World Cup with the USWNT as well as a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. They join a stacked Gotham roster, which includes Spanish World Cup champion Esther, Lynn Williams, Midge Purce, Kelley O’Hara, Allie Long and more. The club finished a storybook “worst to first” run in 2023 behind a roster refresh and the clear leadership of manager Juan Carlos Amorós.

“We are incredibly excited to have two exceptional talents like Rose and Emily join the club,” Gotham general manager Yael Averbuch West said. “Rose is a crafty and entertaining player, and our fans and club will be very excited to watch her at Red Bull Arena, and Sonnett is a true professional and competitor, who understands what success in the league looks like. The club and our fans are extremely excited to have players of their stature as we build upon the success of last season.”  

The signings coincide with a Thursday morning announcement by the NWSL that the 2024 salary cap will be $2.75 million, almost doubling teams’ operating budgets from last year. The league is also slowly doing away with allocation money, which limited the flow and usage of funds despite not counting towards a team’s salary cap.

For fans trying to understand how Gotham could possibly afford to bring in four of the biggest stars in the league, the salary cap increase alongside a few big player departures might prove to be a big part of the puzzle. World Cup champion center-back Ali Krieger has retired, and star midfielder Kristie Mewis recently finalized a transfer to West Ham United in the WSL, with an immediate severing of her contract at Gotham. 

It’s possible that Dunn could slot into Mewis’s role, or the team will rethink the midfield with Lavelle as the primary playmaker and Sonnett as a defensive midfielder. 

Long, who most recently came off the bench in a No. 6 role, is currently an unrestricted free agent out of contract with the team, as well as veteran midfielder McCall Zerboni.

Davidson will likely replace Krieger at center-back, who retired at the end of 2023. She’ll slot into a backline that includes 2023 NWSL Rookie of the Year Jenna Nighswonger, rising Brazilian talent Bruninha, and Spanish international Maitane López.

No matter how Gotham lines up on the field in 2024, all four signings should be considered a historic high in the league’s young history with free agency, only in its second year. The era of the NWSL superteam might be upon us, and all roads are leading to New York.

Tierna Davidson is in advanced talks to sign with Gotham FC in NWSL free agency, The Equalizer’s Jenna Tonelli reported Tuesday.

Davidson, 25, is a star defender who has played for the Chicago Red Stars since 2019, when she was selected by the club with the No. 1 overall pick in the NWSL college draft.

A member of the 2019 World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national team, Davidson has made 51 international appearances. She also has made 61 appearances for Chicago since 2019.

Davidson becomes just the latest USWNT player to be linked to Gotham FC in free agency. Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett also reportedly are in advanced discussions to join the reigning NWSL champions, and Crystal Dunn has been linked to the club as well.

The addition of Davidson would make sense for Gotham FC given the retirement of 2023 NWSL Defender of the Year nominee and captain Ali Krieger.

Alex Morgan weighed in on the NWSL expansion draft discourse Monday, saying the draft “should not exist.”

Her reaction came after her now-former San Diego Wave teammate Rachel Hill, who was selected in the expansion draft by Bay FC, posted to social media, thanking the Wave and their fans.

“Did not think I’d be sitting here writing this after only one season,” wrote Hill, who had chosen the Wave in free agency last season and signed a two-year contract through 2024. “I’ve loved every second I had in San Diego and I’m sad it’s come to an end like this.”

Morgan shared Hill’s post to her own Instagram, writing: “The NWSL expansion draft should not exist. Period. If you reach free agency and choose the club and city you want to play for, you deserve the [opportunity] to see that through. It was torture watching the expansion draft, really.”

The USWNT and San Diego Wave forward isn’t the only person to criticize the process. Multiple head coaches have done so in the last week, including Wave head coach Casey Stoney, who wrote: “We have to find a different way!!!! It can be done because I have done it!!!!!!”

Meanwhile, Laura Harvey of OL Reign, who lost two players to the expansion draft, wrote: “I’d just like to make it official. I dislike the expansion draft. I also dislike that I chose to be in England whilst it was on, so now it’s 1.30am and I’m wired. Thanks very much!”

North Carolina Courage head coach Sean Nahas also was critical of the process. Seven players were selected, five by Bay FC and two by Utah Royals FC. Of those players, two already have been traded, as San Diego brought back Sierra Enge – who had been selected by Bay FC – with the help of Houston while also trading with Utah for former OL Reign forward Elyse Bennett.

“I don’t think people actually realize the damage that is created by this process and what it does to players, clubs and those relationships,” Nahas wrote Saturday. “We should be protecting the league and not 9 players per roster. There needs to be another way.”

Before the draft, North Carolina and San Diego engaged in trades with the new teams to try and limit their losses in the draft and to maintain more control over the future of their lineups. OL Reign did not make any trades with either Bay FC or Utah Royals FC.

Utah Royals sporting director Kelly Cousins conceded after the draft that the process of expansion should change.

“When you get to draft day, it’s not nice for anyone, even for us, being in it,” Cousins said. “You’re picking a player, and a new player finds out in the moment, live on telly, that they go to another club. For us, that doesn’t sit well, I think it is something that probably should change because you’re saying a player could be uprooted. We’re a week away from Christmas, and now they might have to move to the other side of the country.”

But Bay FC general manager Lucy Rushton called the expansion draft “imperative.”

“I think it’s essential because I think without it, it would have been very difficult for us to amass a roster from within the NWSL,” she said. “Is it the nicest mechanism through which to acquire players? No, probably not, not for the players and it’s tough. I certainly think it’s essential and especially now, having gone through the process, it scares me to think what some of the numbers might have looked like that teams might have asked for to trade their players.”

The league will go through an expansion process again in a couple of years, with Boston and one other team set to begin play in 2026.

After winning the 2023 NWSL championship, Gotham FC is surging into the offseason, with free agents and U.S. women’s national team stars Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett reportedly in “advanced discussions” to sign with the club.

The news was first reported by The Athletic’s Meg Linehan, though according to her sources, no paperwork has been signed yet.

Both Lavelle and Sonnett were major players for OL Reign in the 2023 NWSL final, in which their team fell, 2-1, to Gotham.

Last month, OL Reign general manager Lesle Gallimore said the club had been in contact with both players “just about daily” since the season ended. But head coach Laura Harvey also said the club was encouraging players to explore free agency.

“I just think that free agency is something that players should live through,” Harvey said. “I said this last year with our free agents: They should live through it. And I think the expansion draft adds an extra wrinkle to that, that they know that if they’re still free, they can’t be picked. So that gives them some power [over] their own destiny outside of wherever they choose their next destination to be.”

Even with that encouragement, though, Harvey also made it clear that she wants to see midfielders Lavelle and Sonnett back on her roster in 2024.

“I think everyone knows that we really value Rose and Sonnett,” she continued. “They’re a huge part of our team. I think Sonnett’s evolution this year has been exceptional. Rose obviously had a tough year, but you saw that at the back end of the season what she can do. They know that we love them, and we want them to stay here.

Lavelle and Sonnett aren’t the only big names to be tied to Gotham in free agency. Fellow USWNT veteran Crystal Dunn has also been linked to the club, with CBS Sports reporting earlier this month that Gotham, the Orlando Pride and the Washington Spirit all are interested in her services, though The Athletic later reported that the Pride were no longer among the top contenders.

After winning the first NWSL title in franchise history, Gotham lost Ali Krieger to retirement and Ellie Jean and Mandy Haught to trades for expansion draft protection.

OL Reign are up for sale this offseason, which could throw a wrench in their free agency plans. NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman has said that the club should be sold by the end of the year.

The NWSL’s transaction window opened at 9 a.m. ET Saturday. It will remain open until 6 p.m. ET Friday before closing for a holiday break and reopening on Dec. 29.

Several NWSL head coaches have spoken out against the expansion draft.

Sean Nahas of the North Carolina Courage, Laura Harvey of OL Reign and Casey Stoney of the San Diego Wave all condemned the draft for the lack of control it creates for players and existing teams.

All three coaches had multiple players selected from their squads in Friday’s expansion draft for Bay FC and Utah Royals FC, both of which will join the league in 2024.

“I don’t think people actually realize the damage that is created by this process and what it does to players, clubs and those relationships. We should be protecting the league and not 9 players per roster. There needs to be another way,” Nahas wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Before the draft, North Carolina and San Diego engaged in trades with the new teams to try and limit their losses in the draft and to maintain more control over the future of their lineups. OL Reign did not make any trades with either Bay FC or Utah Royals FC.

Yet all three teams lost two players to the new clubs. And coaches and players aren’t happy with the lives being uprooted.

“I’d just like to make it official. I dislike the expansion draft. I also dislike that I chose to be in England whilst it was on, so now it’s 1.30am and I’m wired. Thanks very much!” Harvey wrote on X.

Many NWSL fans seem to be in agreement with coaches and players about disliking the expansion draft. Some have proposed earlier free agency, so teams can sign all of their own talent with more control from existing teams and players. None of the coaches who spoke out offered specific solutions — but they believe a new way could be found.

“We have to find a different way!!!! It can be done because I have done it!!!!!!” Stoney said on X.

Phallon Tullis-Joyce has been hard at work with Manchester United after making the move to the English club earlier this year.

Tullis-Joyce started 2023 as the starting goalkeeper for OL Reign before making the move to the Women’s Super League. Now she’s the backup for England starter Mary Earps, who was named the best goalkeeper at the 2023 World Cup in August. Earps, though, could be on the move at conclusion of the 2023-24 WSL season, which would put Tullis-Joyce in line for the starting spot.

As Manchester United head coach Marc Skinner told Chris Brookes, he’s been happy with how the 27-year-old American (and U.S. women’s national team prospect) has adapted since her move from the NWSL.

“She’s having to adapt to shorter passes, medium, and obviously some longer-range to make sure we mix up the opponent – but I think it’s about the speed in which she does that,” Skinner said, noting the increased ball possession in the English compared to the U.S. league.

Skinner is no stranger to the NWSL, having coached the Orlando Pride from 2019 to 2021.

“I’ve been to the NWSL and there’s a lot of quality there, a lot of individual dribbling quality, a lot of high-speed energy,” he continued, noting that the WSL is “a little bit more tactically designed,” which Tullis-Joyce is learning.

Even still, it isn’t taking much for her to adjust. Skinner likened the process to “sharpening her tools.”

“I’ll be very clear: she has all of the foundations,” Skinner said. “I’ve never seen a goalkeeper make the saves that she makes, honestly. … She’s so athletic. I think it’s just making sure she can make those in big moments.

“She’s such an astute learner, she literally takes a notepad into everywhere she goes. So, you’re going to see a real character that, I think after this season once she’s had these kind of games, I think you’re going to see a world-class goalkeeper. I really do. She’s got all of the qualities she needs.”

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.