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NWSL free agency is here. Could another former Cougar come home?

Utah Royals FC signed their first player, former Cougar Mikayla Cluff, on Wednesday and will now look to free agency as it continues building its roster

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Chicago Red Stars Michele Vasconcelos controls the ball during an NWSL Challenge Cup soccer match against the Washington Spirit in 2020.

Chicago Red Stars Michele Vasconcelos controls the ball during the second half of an NWSL Challenge Cup soccer match against the Washington Spirit on June 27, 2020, in Herriman.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

Utah Royals FC signed former BYU star Mikayla Cluff Wednesday, making Cluff the first player to join the club since its relaunch.

With the National Women’s Soccer League free agency period open, the Royals will now shift their attention to bringing in more players, and another former Cougar is among the possible candidates.

Sandy native and former BYU Cougar Michele Vasconcelos is an unrestricted free agent. She is one of seven players with a mutual option for 2024, but both Vasconcelos and the Portland Thorns would have to agree to exercise the option by Nov. 20 for her to stay with the team, according to the NWSL.

If Vasconcelos came to play for Utah, it wouldn’t be the first time she’s played for the Royals. The team traded for her in 2020, the Royals’ last season before they became the Kansas City Current.

Who is Michele Vasconcelos?

Vasconcelos has spent most of her NWSL career with the Chicago Red Stars, who drafted her 11th overall in 2017, and the Portland Thorns, where she won the NWSL Championship last season.

From 2012 to 2016, she played at BYU, where she married former BYU men’s soccer player Pedro Vasconcelos.

The forward was named the WCC Freshman of the Year after starting every match of her freshman season, according to the Thorns. She finished her senior season as No. 15 on Top Drawer Soccer’s end of season list of best players and won the West Coast Conference Player of the Year award.

She recorded 30 goals and 27 assists in 70 matches for BYU, according to the Royals.

Could Ashley Hatch join the Utah Royals?

When the Royals teased Cluff’s signing on social media, fans pleaded with the club to get Ashley Hatch.

However, Hatch is not a free agent and has another year on her contract with the Washington Spirit. To acquire Hatch, the Royals would have to make a trade like they did for Cluff.

Hatch could also join the Royals through December’s expansion draft — the Royals have the first pick over fellow newcomer Bay FC — if she isn’t one of the nine players the Spirit choose to protect, per league rules.

In October, she expressed her loyalty to her current team — the Spirit exercised her 2024 option in June — and shut down rumors about joining the Royals in the near future but didn’t shut the door entirely, as the Deseret News previously reported.

“I was really excited to hear the return of the Royals. Mostly because when we come and play them, I can have a lot of family and friends to come and visit, and I love playing in Utah. And I think it’s a great market for a women’s professional soccer team,” she said. “At the moment, I’m pretty loyal to the Spirit, but who knows maybe further down the road in my career. I don’t think it would be a bad place to end up but we’ll see.”

Which USWNT players are NWSL free agents?

The following USWNT players are free agents, according to the NWSL:

  • Crystal Dunn.
  • Becky Sauerbrunn, a former Utah Royal.
  • Emily Fox.
  • Rose Lavelle.
  • Tierna Davidson.
  • Casey Krueger.
  • Sam Mewis.
  • Mallory (Pugh) Swanson.
  • Emily Sonnett.

When does NWSL free agency start?

Players were free to begin negotiating new contracts with teams on Sept. 22 and could sign with their current team at any time, but they cannot sign contracts with new teams until Nov. 20, according to the NWSL.