'They take the women's side seriously': Why Carli Lloyd chose Manchester City

The two-time FIFA Player of the Year picked fit over money, with Champions League and NWSL commitments also factoring into her decision.

Sometimes, when we least expect it, everything just comes together.

Clubs from around the world have inquired about acquiring Carli Lloyd’s services for some time. French giants Lyon came calling, with the lure of the defending European champions aiming for a fourth Champions League title. China, as that market is increasingly doing on the women’s side, had money to spend.

I’m not just going to go somewhere for the money or because of a certain name. It has to fit.

But Lyon already has more star players than it does starting positions, and China’s level of play and setup remains a relative mystery – and it was an opportunity that would have required Lloyd to miss the entire 2017 National Women’s Soccer League season.

Manchester City, on the other hand, ticked every box.

“I’m not a money chaser. I’m not just going to go somewhere for the money or because of a certain name,” Lloyd told FourFourTwo on Wednesday. “It has to fit. It’s cool knowing that this team is left in the Champions League, and the philosophy is there. Fit-wise, it is best for me.”

Manchester City announced on Wednesday that it had signed Lloyd for the Spring Series of England’s top flight, the FAWSL, which takes place from April 22 to June 3. The reigning league champions are in the quarterfinals of this season’s UEFA Champions League, and they have serious ambitions to become only the second English team to win the competition, following Arsenal in 2007. Lloyd, the two-time reigning world player of the year, is a major boon to that effort.

Lloyd has had a desire to play abroad for some time, she said, and this year is the ideal time to do so. World Cup preparations will begin in more earnest in 2018, then there’s the World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020, all of which the current U.S. co-captain plans to be a part of. That window of opportunity was also part of U.S. international Crystal Dunn’s decision to sign with FAWSL rival Chelsea through 2018, and Alex Morgan’s move to join Lyon through June. U.S. legend Heather O’Reilly also signed for Arsenal this offseason.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

City got in touch with Lloyd over the winter, and the conversations truly picked up in the last two weeks, Lloyd said. It all happened quickly, with Lloyd flying to Manchester on Saturday, signing, and returning home Wednesday ahead of the U.S.-hosted SheBelieves Cup against Germany, France and England in March.

Meeting face-to-face with people around the club, including manager Nick Cushing, and seeing the club first-hand made everything real.

It’s definitely still important for me to help out the NWSL. Obviously, it’s a hard decision to be coming and going and missing that first half of the season.

“You don’t have an understanding of an organization as a whole when you’re watching from your couch,” she said. “They have this vision and this philosophy and they back it up. They are successful.

“I also admire that they really want to help women coach soccer. They are really trying to help their players and set up their future.”

City Football Group has committed substantial, and largely unprecedented, money to the women’s game, including facilities for its women’s teams in Manchester and Melbourne, the latter of which won a second straight Australian W-League title on Sunday. That infrastructure has been a selling point for players in both locations, allowing Manchester City to bring in top English players like Jill Scott and Lucy Bronze and Melbourne to attract and retain Jess Fishlock and Steph Catley. Swedish international Kosovare Asllani lauded the professional facilities upon signing with the Manchester City last year.

Lloyd took notice of the facilities, too, though the seasoned veteran was measured about it.

“The facilities that I’ve trained on throughout my career, people would probably laugh. It’s nothing glamorous,” she said, referring to some of her hometown fields in New Jersey, where she trains in the offseason. “You don’t want to get too sold on the facilities, but they have access to everything. Their facilities are world-class. What I admire the most is they take the women’s side really seriously and treat them equally.”

Lloyd’s contract is just for the FAWSL’s Spring Season, a competition which is meant to bridge the gap in the league’s shift from a summer league to a traditional European calendar. She plans to return to the Houston Dash, where she has played the past two NWSL seasons, after the FAWSL season ends in June, around which there is also expected to be a U.S. national team training camp.

“It’s definitely still important for me to help out the NWSL,” she said. “Obviously, it’s a hard decision to be coming and going and missing that first half of the season. It’s a great opportunity to improve my game.”

For Lloyd, the timing, philosophy and opportunity to return to Houston all came together. It’s why Manchester City was able to convince her to do what other clubs couldn’t: Play abroad, even for a short stint.

“Purely a win-win,” Lloyd said.

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Jeff Kassouf is the editor of FourFourTwo USA. Follow him on Twitter @JeffKassouf.