Sam Kerr is leaving the Chicago Red Stars and the National Women’s Soccer League for Europe, according to the Washington Post.
Kerr had been connected to lucrative offers from Europe during the 2019 season and brushed off questions about her future all year. Those questions ramped up toward the end of the season as Kerr and the Red Stars progressed to the NWSL final for the first time ever.
Kerr informed the Red Stars on Friday of her intention to move, although she hasn’t decided on which European club yet, according to the report. The Red Stars have not yet responded to a request for comment.
News of the league MVP leaving comes the same day the NWSL officially announced a number of new acquisition rules and a boosted salary structure. One of the new rules allows teams to purchase up to $300,000 of what the league is calling allocation money to afford top-level players that aren’t attached to the United States or Canada national teams.
That allocation money had been anticipated for weeks and went hand-in-hand with discussions about Kerr’s future. But despite the Red Stars now having the ability to match a high-paying contract offer from overseas, Kerr is leaving anyway.
Confirming @SoccerInsider's report: Sam Kerr has informed Chicago she won't return next season. Final destination still TBD. Chelsea long in consideration. Real Madrid/Tacon in the mix.
This week's NWSL rules weren't made just for Kerr but obviously there are some optics.
— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) November 1, 2019
Kerr will leave after a dominant stint in the league. The 26-year-old Australian won the NWSL Golden Boot each of the last three years. She scored 17 goals — then a league record — with Sky Blue FC in 2017. The Red Stars acquired her the following offseason. She scored 16 goals in 2018 and then followed up by breaking her own record with 18 goals this season. Kerr then added the only goal in the Red Stars’ semifinal win this year.
Kerr won the league’s MVP award in 2017 with Sky Blue and this year with the Red Stars.
After Kerr played in the World Cup with Australia this summer, she came back to the Red Stars right away. She scored a hat trick in Orlando for her first game back. When asked why she returned so quickly even though coach Rory Dames told her to take as much time as she needed, Kerr gave an open response.
“I love being here,” Kerr said after a win Aug. 3. “I love playing, and it kind of takes your mind off everything that goes on around you. I feel really comfortable here. The girls make me feel really comfortable. For me, this is my home, so that’s the only reason I came home is to be home and be in my own apartment and be back with these girls that I love.”
Kerr’s girlfriend, Nikki Stanton, is a midfielder for the Red Stars.
As for the Red Stars, they will have to find a way to replace Kerr’s goal production. Dames has proven to be creative and effective at acquiring talent, but the Red Stars didn’t score a goal in three games without Kerr while she was at the World Cup. The club announced earlier Friday it had either picked up options or had contract offers out to every player on the roster.