Insider Notes: Latest on Mal Pugh's NWSL saga; LAFC interest in Schelotto
The most fascinating signing saga in U.S. soccer right now involves Mal Pugh, the 19-year-old budding superstar who just left UCLA to turn pro.
Pugh has met in the past week with Nike, Adidas and Under Armour for what is sure to be one of the biggest endorsement deals for a U.S. women’s player outside of Alex Morgan (who earns well into seven figures per year on endorsements). On Monday, Pugh met with officials from the Washington Spirit, which holds the allocation rights to select Pugh in the NWSL. One problem: Pugh doesn’t want to play in Washington—which has seen the departure of national team players Crystal Dunn, Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris the last two seasons—and would rather be in Portland with the popular Thorns. But Washington owner Bill Lynch does not want to trade Pugh’s rights and has a major beef with Portland over its signing of former Spirit coach Mark Parsons.
If the NWSL teams can’t work out a deal, Pugh could go to UEFA Women's Champions League finalist Paris Saint-Germain, which has already made her a contract offer, according to a source at the club. The NWSL can’t afford to lose Pugh, though, and the U.S. is where Pugh would prefer to be. Most of the people I’m speaking to think she’ll end up in the NWSL in a city other than Portland or Washington.
Other NWSL teams interested in acquiring Pugh include Orlando, Seattle and Houston.
Elsehwere around Planet Fútbol:
LAFC has interest in Guillermo Barros Schelotto for vacant manager role
LAFC, which starts play in Major League Soccer in 2018, has yet to hire a head coach. The club has had discussions with Bob Bradley, but sources say that another top LAFC candidate is Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Currently the coach at Argentina’s Boca Juniors, Schelotto has fond memories of MLS from his playing days with the Columbus Crew, which he led to the 2008 MLS Cup title. Schelotto won the 2008 MLS MVP award and 2008 MLS Cup MVP honors to cap a regular season in which he had seven goals and 19 assists. In 102 MLS regular season games he amassed 33 goals and 41 assists.
Prior to Boca Juniors, the 43-year-old Schelotto managed at Lanus in his native Argentina, winning the Copa Sudamericana in 2013.
One MLS GM from another club says he thinks Schelotto will definitely manage in MLS at some point and added that he’d be a “genius hire” for the club that gets him.
Union's Ghana-born Derrick Jones cleared to play for USA at U-20 World Cup
The men's Under-20 World Cup starts later this month, and good news for the U.S. came this week when FIFA cleared the Philadelphia Union's Derrick Jones to play for the U.S. at the tournament.
Jones, a 20-year-old midfielder, was born in Ghana but moved to the U.S. at age 14 and has dual U.S.-Ghanaian citizenship. (He had represented Ghana at the Under-15 level.) Jones, who's 6-foot-3 with good feet, has started five games this season for Philadelphia and will be eligible to play for the U.S. in not just the Under-20 World Cup, but also the 2020 Olympics.
Meanwhile, Christian Pulisic had been on the U.S.'s preliminary roster for the Under-20 World Cup, but Dortmund's advancement to the German Cup final means that Pulisic's slim chances of going to South Korea for the tournament are gone. The final is on May 27, while the USA U-20s' group games in South Korea are May 22, 25 and 28.
Asian officials on notice amid U.S. DOJ's probe into FIFA corruption
It appeared in recent months that the U.S. Department of Justice’s FIFA investigation was losing steam, but that is most certainly not the case after the DOJ opened a new front in Asian soccer last week.
Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad al Sabah, one of the most powerful people in FIFA and in the International Olympic Committee, resigned from all his soccer positions after he was identified as a co-conspirator in last week’s guilty plea to bribery by a former FIFA official from Guam.
One FIFA insider says that based on what the DOJ revealed last week, we could see many more soccer officials in Asia taken down in the ongoing U.S. investigation.