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Christen Press leaves Utah Royals FC for Manchester United; URFC will retain her NWSL rights

Utah Royals FC forward Christen Press (23) turns back after a shot as the Salt Lake Royals and Sky Blue FC play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. The Royals won 3-0.
Utah Royals FC forward Christen Press (23) turns back after a shot as the Salt Lake Royals and Sky Blue FC play at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. Press is headed to Manchester United.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been reported for some time that Utah Royals FC and United States Women’s National Team forward Christen Press would be departing for Manchester United in England, and that became official Wednesday.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to put a damper on sports in the United States, the 31-year-old Press joins a growing list of women’s soccer players who have decided to go abroad to play. Press will be with the English power through the 2020-21 season, and URFC will retain her National Women’s Soccer League rights.

Press’ best friend, Tobin Heath of the Portland Thorns FC, also formally signed with Manchester United on Wednesday under a similar agreement. There is speculation the duo may not rejoin their respective NWSL clubs until after the Olympics next year in Tokyo, Japan.

URFC acquired Press in 2018 just months into its existence, giving the club not only a notable USWNT figure but one of the most dangerous scorers in the world. The deal, though, which saw URFC give up five draft picks (Press had been playing in Sweden after refusing to play for the Houston Dash following a trade from the Chicago Red Stars), has not been wonderful for URFC.

When Press has been available, she’s been excellent, scoring 10 goals with four assists, but she’s only played in 25 matches. She, Heath and Megan Rapinoe, who are all business partners together, opted out of this summer’s NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah and won’t be in the league’s fall series, which began last weekend.

Speculation is high that Press desires to play for the expansion Los Angeles team that will be entering the NWSL in 2022, as she was raised in nearby Palos Verdes.