Carli Lloyd has officially joined the women's team of English club Manchester City on a short-term deal that will run until early summer.
"I'm incredibly excited to be joining Manchester City, a club which is leading the development of women's football both on and off the pitch," Lloyd said in remarks distributed by Manchester City. "Having played in the U.S. throughout my career, the chance to fulfill a long-held ambition to test myself in a new footballing environment, as well as playing in the Champions League, is something I am relishing."
— Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) February 15, 2017
The first rumors of Manchester City's interest got out last week. She was officially offered a contract on Sunday, and accepted it soon thereafter.
"Coming here, the city, seeing the facilities, the organization... there's just a great philosophy in place," Lloyd said. "It's an incredible professional environment here - just being here for a short stint has been unbelievable. They've set the bar high, and I'm just thrilled to be in a professional environment, because each and every day, I treat myself as a huge professional and want to keep getting better."
Lloyd's contract with City is just a short-term deal. She will join them after the SheBelieves Cup in March, and stay until early June. She will then return to the Houston Dash for the remainder of the NWSL season.
That won't be a problem for City, because the English league is playing a shortened, spring-only season this year.
It's part of a transition from a summer calendar to a fall-to-spring one like what the men play. The "Spring Series," as the FA Women's Super League is calling it, runs from April 22 to June 3. Teams will take a break after that, then begin a full campaign in late summer.
I've been told that Lloyd was also offered deals by Lyon and a Chinese team, and turned both down. Those same sources told me that the offer from China was a longer-term deal that would have had her miss the entire National Women's Soccer League campaign, and she did not want to be gone for that long because she wants to play in the NWSL this year.
— Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) February 15, 2017
"It's great for me to be able to come over here and see what another women's league is all about, then go back and help the NWSL," Lloyd said in remarks distributed by Man City. "Throughout my career, I'm always looking for different challenges. I always want to continue to get better and look for ways where I'm going to be able to push my game. I think coming over here and being part of City is going to do that."
The Delran native and U.S. women's national team captain is joining a club that has quickly developed a pedigree as one of England's best. City won the league and women's FA Cup last season, and have set multiple domestic attendance records in the last two years. Their roster includes England national team regulars Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze, and Sweden's Kosovare Asllani.
Lloyd, though, is a star on a much greater scale. She spoke of wanting "to make a wave" in England, and the odds are pretty good she'll do just that.
"There is much we can learn from her that will help us to improve as a team," City manager Nick Cushing said. "We are all looking forward to working with her over the coming months."
Lloyd is the third current or former U.S. national team star to move to the English league this year. Crystal Dunn signed with Chelsea in early January, and Heather O'Reilly joined Arsenal a few weeks later. Neither of them will return to the NWSL this year.
— Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly) February 15, 2017
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 15, 2017
— David Villa (@Guaje7Villa) February 15, 2017
Lloyd's deal is similar to the one Alex Morgan signed with French club Lyon. Morgan will be in France until the end of the French league and UEFA Champions League campaigns in early June, then return to the Orlando Pride.
Lyon and Manchester City are among the teams in the Champions League quarterfinals, which will be played from March 22-30. City confirmed that Lloyd will be part of their squad for their series against Denmark's Fortuna Hjørring - a team that has an American of its own in defensive midfielder Janelle Cordia.
"I hope to be playing in a Champions League final - that's first and foremost," Lloyd said. "The Champions League is huge, and not too many female footballers are able to say they've competed in that. At the end of the day, I don't want to just be a competitor in that, I want to try to help the team win it all."
Lyon, for the record, are playing fellow powerhouse VfL Wolfsburg. The other matchups are Barcelona vs. Sweden's Rosengård and Bayern Munich vs. Paris Saint-Germain. Each has a share of big names you've heard of thanks to the recent World Cup and Olympics. Many of them will be in Chester on March 1 when Germany, France and England visit for the SheBelieves Cup.
As for the team Lloyd is briefly leaving behind, Dash manager Randy Waldrum was his typically blunt self in remarks distributed by the team.
"I'm disappointed that she will not be with the team as we start the season, but I wished her all the best with her decision," he said. "Our team is not built around any one player, so nothing will change with regards to our goals and expectations for our team."
Waldrum will turn to Lloyd's partner in the national team midfield Morgan Brian, plus up-and-coming forward Kealia Ohai, to fill Lloyd's gap in both goals and star power.
"[They] are committed to preparing for the start of the Dash season and are more than ready to get back on the pitch and begin our quest to win an NWSL title," Waldrum said. "I am excited about this team and look forward to working with the talented group that I’ll go into camp with."
The Twitter handle above is for my general news reporting. My soccer handle is @thegoalkeeper. Contact me there for any questions about this post.