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Rose Lavelle traded by Washington Spirit ahead of her expected move to Manchester City

Rose Lavelle, center, shown last month during the NWSL Challenge Cup, joined the Spirit in 2018. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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In anticipation of soccer superstar Rose Lavelle leaving for England, the Washington Spirit on Sunday traded the U.S. national team midfielder’s NWSL rights to OL Reign for a 2022 first-round draft pick and financial considerations.

Lavelle, 25, is expected to sign with Manchester City this week, multiple people close to the player said. Last week the English club announced the acquisition of U.S. teammate Sam Mewis, formerly with the North Carolina Courage.

The Spirit will receive $100,000 in allocation money, which can be used to acquire players or help offset a contract that exceeds the salary cap. Additional money will go to Washington should Lavelle return to the NWSL.

OL Reign, which is based in Tacoma, Wash., is gambling on Lavelle returning to the league in the next few years.

“While we would have loved to have Rose join our club today, she fits perfectly into our long-term vision for the squad,” Reign chief executive Bill Predmore said in a statement. “We are willing to make the short-term sacrifices, exercise the needed patience and do whatever work is required to realize our goal of bringing Rose to OL Reign in the future.”

Had Washington not made the trade, it would not have received anything in return. NWSL teams cannot collect transfer fees in exchange for national team players, who are under contract with the American governing body, the U.S. Soccer Federation, and not individual teams.

“Rose truly is a world-class player and working with her has been an incredibly enjoyable experience,” Coach Richie Burke said in a statement. “I wish her the very best of luck and the good fortune to stay healthy as she moves to the next phase of her career.”

Lavelle is one of the sport’s most talented and exciting players; she was voted the third-best player at the 2019 World Cup in France and scored in the final against the Netherlands.

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However, because of frequent injuries and national team call-ups she appeared in only 21 of the Spirit’s 53 matches over three seasons. Lavelle posted two goals and one assist.

In this summer’s Challenge Cup in Utah, she sat out one of the five matches and was limited to 30 minutes in a quarterfinal defeat to Sky Blue FC because of ailments to both ankles.

The other consideration in trading Lavelle was the expansion draft this winter. Protecting Lavelle’s rights would have left one of Washington’s promising young players exposed to selection by Racing Louisville, which next year will become the NWSL’s 10th team.

This marks the second time in seven months the Spirit has traded a U.S. national team player. On draft day in January, Mallory Pugh, an underperforming attacker, was traded to New Jersey-based Sky Blue for four high draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2021.

Lavelle’s departure is a marketing setback to both the Spirit and the NWSL. Her popularity is rivaled only by some of the U.S. veterans, such as Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. The Spirit is planning to play seven of 12 home matches at 20,000-seat Audi Field next year.

The club’s primary home since 2013 had been 5,200-seat Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County. Starting next year, besides Audi Field, the Spirit will play at 5,000-seat Segra Field in Leesburg.

The trade comes as the NWSL is planning to continue competition in September and October following the successful, month-long tournament in a bubble in greater Salt Lake City.

In continuing to establish safe environments, the league has proposed three three-team pods, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Every team would host two matches and play six apiece overall.

CBS Sports is tentatively slated to show six matches, including the Sept. 5 opener between Washington and Sky Blue at a venue to be determined in the D.C. area. The other team in their pod is the Chicago Red Stars. The other pods are: Orlando, Houston and North Carolina; and Portland, OL Reign and Utah.

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