Alex Morgan is back in the United States after a short spell at Tottenham, a move that created more attention and excitement than perhaps any transfer in Women’s Super League history.
The two-time World Cup winner returned to her home country over Christmas, where she celebrated the festive season with her family – including her daughter Charlie, who was born in May last year.
In the end, her time in north London consisted of just five appearances and two goals, though she did play a leading role as Spurs began to turn their fortunes around at the end of 2020 under new boss Rehanne Skinner.
After suffering a knee injury while rebuilding her fitness following the birth of her daughter, Morgan was finally getting up to speed with her new club in the latter weeks of the year.
Why, then, has she chosen to return to the United States?
While Morgan’s move to Tottenham in September was certainly a huge surprise to many, her return across the Atlantic was less so. There are a number of reasons for that.
Generally speaking, although many USWNT stars have enjoyed spells abroad over the years, most do tend to ply their trade in the NWSL, the top flight of women’s soccer in America.
Morgan herself has played abroad before, spending part of the 2016-17 season in France with Lyon, whom she would help win a treble that included the club’s fourth Champions League trophy.
But the 31-year-old has long spoken about the importance of growing the NWSL.
Accepting an award in the summer of 2019, fresh off the back of winning her second Women’s World Cup, she said: "We [the USWNT] obviously enjoyed success on the biggest stage right now. But when the World Cup is behind us, it is the professional league that we need to continually lift up and grow."
Morgan’s presence in the NWSL will certainly help do that, as one of the most recognisable women’s soccer players in the world.
Another major reason for Morgan’s return will no doubt be her family. Her husband, Servando Carrasco, currently plays for Fort Lauderdale, the reserve team of Major League Soccer club Inter Miami.
Morgan herself has been playing in Miami with the Orlando Pride since 2016, the club which retains her NWSL rights and the forward is expected to represent again in 2021.
The USWNT star’s decision to move to Tottenham was driven by a desire to play as much soccer as possible off the back of her pregnancy and ahead of the Olympic Games, which are to take place in Tokyo, Japan, this summer.
However, the NWSL season will get under way in April with the Challenge Cup tournament, ahead of the regular season returning in May. Pre-season will begin on February 1.
Returning to the United States now gives Morgan that chance to play plenty of soccer before the Olympics, as well as being at home with her family.
Speaking about the difficulty of being away from her husband in England, the striker told PEOPLE: "Obviously, in the last 10 years that we've been together, we've spent a lot of time away from each other, but we haven't had a baby or a daughter, and that creates a more difficult element of being apart.
"We don't want to be away from each other, because we want to see her grow every single day, together. That's important to us. We made that decision before we decided to get pregnant.”
On the pitch, Pride manager Marc Skinner is hopeful that Morgan can play a huge role in helping the club achieve something in 2021.
Despite being littered with top talent, including one of the greatest players of all time, Marta, Orlando have struggled over the last two years, finishing seventh and ninth in 2018 and 2019 respectively, missing out on the NWSL play-offs.
“I fully expect Alex to be part of Orlando and going forwards to be part of what we’re doing at the club,” Skinner said back in September.
The NWSL play-offs this season will include six teams, rather than the usual four, and with the Challenge Cup, which played its inaugural campaign during 2020, added to the calendar, there is another trophy for NWSL clubs to target.