Yuki Nagasato, a Women’s World Cup winner with Japan, will make history as she joins men’s club Hayabusa Eleven in the Kanagawa Prefecture League in Japan.
The Chicago Red Stars loaned Nagasato to the club for the NWSL fall schedule and the offseason. She is the first woman to play for the team and one of only a few in soccer history to play for a men’s squad.
Nagasato will return for 2021 Red Stars
Nagasoto will return to the Red Stars before the 2021 NWSL preseason, the team said in a release.
Nagasato, 33, started for Chicago in the NWSL Challenge Cup this summer, but didn’t play in the knockout stage games due to a leg injury. The forward was a big part of the team’s 2019 season, which concluded with a 4-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage in the final.
She led the league with eight assists and tied for sixth in the league with eight goals. Nagasato joined Chicago in 2017 after playing for teams in Japan, Germany and England. While in the NWSL she played in Australia’s W-League during the offseason.
The NWSL has started back up with a series of fall friendlies despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The Red Stars play Saturday against the Washington Spirit.
Japanese star returns to make history
Nagasato came in as a substitute for Japan in the 2011 World Cup final victory over the U.S. national team. The Kanagawa Prefecture native has played more than 130 matches for Japan and was also part of the teams in the 2007 and 2015 World Cups.
Her new team, Hayabusa, plays in the second division of the Kanagawa league, per ESPN. They operate seven or eight rungs below the top league men’s league in the country, the J-League.
The league was scheduled to begin in the spring, but it was postponed due to the pandemic. A shortened season that consists of 28 teams divided into four divisions begins this weekend.
NWSL players joining overseas leagues
Nagasato’s loan took the backseat Wednesday to news that USWNT stars Christen Press and Tobin Heath were joining Manchester United in England’s Women’s Super League. The deals are for one year and both are open to re-joining their NWSL seasons since they don’t typically overlap.
Fellow national team stars Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle joined Manchester City last month. The signings go beyond these four and are setting up the WSL to be arguably the best and most talented women’s soccer league in the world.
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