The headliner of UCLA women’s soccer’s No. 1 recruiting class for the 2016 season will not be suiting up for the Bruins for an official in-season game.
United States women’s national team starter Mal Pugh has left UCLA to pursue a professional soccer career, UCLA Athletics announced Monday.
“This decision was certainly not easy for me to make,” Pugh said in a statement to UCLA Athletics. “UCLA soccer brought amazing things to my life, and chasing after a national championship with my friends and teammates would’ve been special, but I could not turn down this opportunity.”
At the 2016 Summer Olympics, Pugh became the second youngest women’s soccer player ever to compete for Team USA, and became the youngest women’s soccer player in United States history to score for Team USA with a strike in the 60th minute against Colombia on Aug. 9.
The U.S. fell to Sweden in the quarterfinal, losing the opportunity to vie for a fourth-straight gold medal.
Pugh enrolled in classes winter quarter, having forgone the fall quarter and the 2016 NCAA season in preparation for the U-20 Women’s World Cup along with UCLA teammate Marley Canales. At the tournament, Pugh scored two goals, one in a 3-1 win over New Zealand, and another in a 1-1 draw with Ghana.
“We are sad to see Mal depart UCLA, but it’s exciting for her to have such a unique opportunity,” said coach Amanda Cromwell, UCLA Athletics reported. “We’ve seen her develop and grow into an amazing young woman and player. Mal will always be a Bruin, and we have no doubt that she is destined for great things as her career progresses.”
Pugh was set to make her debut this fall alongside Canales and a women’s soccer team that also has rising sophomore midfielder Jessie Fleming, who won a bronze medal with the Canadian national team at the 2016 Summer Olympics and was named Top Drawer Soccer’s Freshman of the Year.