Christen Press selected by Louisville in NWSL expansion draft

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals FC forward Christen Press (23) is cheered by the fans as she gets ready for a corner kick as Utah Royals FC hosts the North Carolina Courage at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday, July 27, 2019. Press, who was left unprotected by the Royals, was selected by Racing Louisville FC in the NWSL expansion draft on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.

The days of Christen Press in a Utah Royals FC uniform are over.

Racing Louisville FC picked the rights to Press on Thursday in the 2020 National Women’s Soccer League expansion draft. She was one of two U.S. Women’s National Team players selected by Louisville.

Utah will receive $75,000 in allocation money due to Press’ status as an allocated player. The club left her unprotected in the expansion draft.

“We are appreciative of the contributions made by Press and wish her luck in this next chapter,” Royals general manager Stephanie Lee said in a statement. “The decision to leave Press unprotected allowed us to focus on players we were certain would and could show up to contribute in the 2021 season, and provides us some flexibility with allocation money during our current transition.”

Press signed a contract with Manchester United in September, though the Royals held on to her NWSL rights.

Part of the reason the Royals left Press unprotected is the front office believed Press wouldn’t return to Utah if she opted to play in the NWSL again. So the prospect of receiving the allocation money was more attractive than trading for Press and thereby letting go of players who wanted to play for Utah and contribute in 2021.

Another piece to the situation, a Royals spokesperson told The Salt Lake Tribune, is that owner Dell Loy Hansen has taken back allocation money that he had already invested. Hansen is in the process of selling Utah Soccer Holdings, which includes the Royals, Real Salt Lake and the Real Monarchs.

If Hansen is still owner of the Royals franchise on Jan. 1, the club won’t have access to any new allocation money it was set to receive from the league. That puts the appeal of receiving $75,000 for Press into further context.

The allocation money the Royals received for trading Becky Sauerbrunn — which could max out at $150,000 — is not included in what Hansen has asked for, the spokesperson said.

Press arrived in Utah in the summer of 2018 via trade. She scored 10 goals as a member of the Royals through 2019, but did not play a game with them in 2020 after opting out of the Challenge Cup and then signing with Manchester United.

Louisville also selected national team forward Tobin Heath from the Portland Thorns.