Orlando is getting a women’s team, and much more: It’s getting Alex Morgan.

Alex Morgan vs. Haiti, Birmingham, Ala., Sept. 20, 2015. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

Alex Morgan vs. Haiti, Birmingham, Ala., Sept. 20, 2015. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

Fast on the heels of the announcement that the Orlando Pride will become the 10th team in the National Women’s Soccer League, Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated broke the story that Alex Morgan is joining the team.

pridelogoWahl said the Portland Thorns, Morgan’s current club, agreed to trade her so she can be with her husband, Servando Carrasco, a midfielder for Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC .  (The Pride, coincidentally, is owned by Orlando City SC.)

“According to sources with knowledge of the deal,” Wahl wrote, “Portland would not have agreed to trade Morgan unless she had made her request for personal reasons.”

Alex Morgan and Servando Carrasco at their wedding reception on Dec. 31, 2014, in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Getty Images)

Alex Morgan and Servando Carrasco at their wedding reception on Dec. 31, 2014, in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Getty Images)

The Thorns had an awful year, finishing sixth in the nine-team NWSL with a record of 6-9-5. After failing to make the playoffs for the first time in the three-year history of the league, the team dumped its coach, Paul Riley.

In 2013, the NWSL’s maiden season, Portland won the league championship.

Better days in Portland: The Thorns won the 2013 NWSL championship, Alex Morgan is in the back row, her right hand extended in the air. (NWSL)

Better days in Portland: The Thorns won the 2013 NWSL championship, Alex Morgan is in the back row, her right hand extended in the air. (NWSL)

Despite the team’s disappointing showing this year, Portland led the league in attendance by a wide margin, as it has in each of the NWSL’s three seasons.

The team’s average attendance in 2015 topped 15,600. Next best: The Houston Dash, at just over 6,400.

Unofficial estimates. Chart compiled by kenn.com from NWSL news stories.

Unofficial estimates. Chart compiled by kenn.com from NWSL news stories.

On the pitch, Morgan was scarcely a factor for the Thorns this year. Because of injuries and the World Cup, she played in just four of her club team’s 20 games. She had one goal on 15 shots and two assists.

And with or without her, Portland is likely to remain the league’s runaway leader in ticket sales. The city embraces the sport like no other. Seattle may come close. But the Thorns have a much better home stadium than the Seattle Reign, they have a committed, savvy owner in Merritt Paulson, and, because Paulson also owns the Portland Timbers of MLS, the women’s team has a solid financial foundation and a front office that understands sales and marketing, player personnel, and .the community.

Alex Morgan, 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. (SI.com)

Alex Morgan, 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. (SI.com)

Nonetheless, Wahl writes, the Thorns highly value Morgan, and they aren’t going to part with her for peanuts.

The 26-year-old, after all, is the new face of women’s soccer, a fan favorite, a media darling, a magazine model, a children’s author, and a marketing dynamo.

She is, hands down, “the most popular U.S. women’s player,” Wahl writes. And when healthy, she is “one of the most dangerous scorers in world soccer.”

Wahl’s sources say that in exchange for Morgan and Kaylyn Kyle, a veteran defender and midfielder from Canada, Portland could receive:

• Orlando’s first draft pick
• Two international players
Meghan Klingenberg, who is signed to the Houston Dash but is not expected to be one of the two national team players that the franchise protects
• And, possibly, Lindsay Horan, should the formidable American striker choose to leave Paris Saint-Germain FC for the NWSL.

 

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