This is The Alex Morgan Trade. The U.S. international striker is reportedly moving from the National Women’s Soccer League’s best supported team, the Portland Thorns, to its newest, the Orlando Pride. Going the other way are Meghan Klingenberg, the rights to Lindsey Horan, two international slots and the first overall pick in this winter’s college draft, though all for that is the small print – the subhead, listed far below the block font headline. Morgan, arguably American soccer’s most popular player, is the point of this trade, and when it happens, it will go down with her name on it.
But about those players going to the Thorns. That’s first team World Cup all-star Klingenberg, who played more in the tournament than Morgan. Horan has been touted as the future of the US strike force – 21 years old and averaging nearly a goal per match since skipping college to sign for Paris-Saint Germain. She’s not just a hope and a prayer either, with rumblings that she is considering a move to NWSL. The two international spots are especially valuable to the Thorns, a team with the worldwide reputation that and lure big-time talent. The return is so strong that the Pride’s first round pick, which is first overall, might be the weakest asset Portland got.
Trading a ton of pieces for a superstar is hardly new to American sports. It’s happened dozens of times, but rarely is the potential of a return been this high, or potentially this lopsided. This could be historic. This could be NWSL’s version of The Herschel Walker Trade.
In that deal, a notorious one that’s become the most famous in National Football League history, Walker was the superstar. The Dallas Cowboys sent him, one of the biggest names in the NFL, to the Minnesota Vikings, along with four draft picks. In exchange, the Cowboys got five players and eight draft picks. By the time all those picks were made, Dallas had netted future Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, five-time All-Pro selection Darren Woodson and Pro Bowlers Kevin Smith and Russell Maryland, among others.
The trade proved transformative for the Cowboys, overhauling their team and giving them a slew of talent alongside Hall of Famers like Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and a bevy of other Pro Bowlers. By the time that group of players were done, they had won three Super Bowls, and The Herschel Walker Trade helped kick it off.
It wasn’t as if Walker was bad for the Vikings either, even if he was never the superstar he was in Dallas. He was merely pretty good, becoming known in Minnesota as the guy the Vikings gave up a generational haul of talent for.
The Pride are betting that everything they’re giving up — some of it indirectly, like selecting Klingenberg in the expansion draft only to trade her — is worth it in part because Morgan can be a dominant player. They’re betting on double digit goals every season, and several more from her teammates as opposing defenses swarm to Morgan, leaving acres of space for the Pride to exploit. They’re betting on getting one of the best players in NWSL.