Should I stay or should I go?
At some point in their professional careers, many female soccer players from North America debate whether to play closer to home in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) or head to Europe.
Over the past year, Europe giants such as France’s Olympique Lyonnais have flexed their financial muscle to bring stars like Canada’s Kadeisha Buchanan across the pond.
But just because the grass can look greener (and the money bigger) overseas, the decision isn’t such a no-brainer.
Buchanan is one of the players who chose the prestige of a European club and the chance to play in the women’s Champions League over staying in North America.
After another standout season at West Virginia University, Buchanan won the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy as the NCAA’s top female soccer player. The 21-year-old defender from Brampton, Ont., was projected to be a high pick in the NWSL draft, but elected to play in Europe.
“It’s more about my development than becoming the face of a franchise,” says Buchanan. “Here [at Olympique Lyonnais] it’s just about soccer, and if I was a franchise player [in the NWSL] it would’ve been more things other than soccer.”
There’s also the money. European clubs are usually able to outbid their NWSL counterparts for top players.
“It was a major factor,” says Buchanan. “You’re only in this game for about 10 to 15 more years so it’s important when you retire that you are financially stable. Being from a huge family, I have to provide for myself and help my family.”
John Herdman, who coaches the Canadian women’s national team, understands the attraction.
“Professional football is a short career. If you can earn triple, quadruple [in Europe] what you’re earning in the U.S., then people will move and that’s fair game,” he says. “As a coach, it’s difficult to tell someone that’s probably got a shelf life of 10 years, ‘You can’t go make money. You gotta stay at home and live with what you got.'”