Esme Morgan swaps Manchester City for Washington Spirit

England defender Esme Morgan has signed a four-year deal with National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) side Washington Spirit after leaving Manchester City.

The 22-year-old had one year left on her contract in England but has opted for a move to the United States, with City receiving a fee for the move.

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

Morgan struggled for consistent game time under City manager Gareth Taylor. A source told ESPN that the lack of playing time was part of the reason she chose to leave the Women's Super League (WSL) runners-up, where she has spent her entire professional career.

The defender earned her first call-up to the England squad in 2020 but has only recently earned a regular place in manager Sarina Wiegman's squad lists. She missed the majority of the 2021-22 season following a leg fracture but earned her first senior cap in October 2022.

She has not had consistent minutes since and was an unused substitute at the 2023 World Cup. Due to the tough competition in England's defence, Morgan will need more regular playing time to ensure she is selected for future squads.

Another driving force for her move is the club's recent appointment of Champions League-winning manager Jonatan Giráldez who will depart Barcelona next week to become the new head coach of the Spirit.

Morgan will be eligible to link up with the Spirit from July 15. With her new team, Morgan will face old foes and WSL title rivals Arsenal when the Gunners travel to face the Spirit for a pre-season friendly on August 18.

"Esme is an exceptional talent and we're thrilled to add her to this talented Spirit roster," president of soccer operations Mark Krikorian said.

"We expect the success she's had at the highest level in England to translate well as she joins the most competitive league in women's soccer."

The Spirit previously acquired NWSL allocation money in anticipation of new signings this summer, when new head coach Giráldez takes over in Washington after completing a historic quadruple with Barça.

Washington acquired $250,000 in allocation money -- a mechanism that allows team to spend outside of the NWSL's salary cap -- in January as part of a draft-day trade that sent Ashley Sanchez to the North Carolina Courage.

The Spirit also signed Colombia midfielder Leicy Santos in April.

Information from ESPN's Jeff Kassouf contributed to this report.