The most sought-after target in the National Women's Soccer League first ever free agency now has a new club. Debinha, the Brazilian international and six-year veteran of the league, has signed a two-year contract with Kansas City Current, the club announced. After announcing that she would not return to the North Carolina Courage, numerous rumors and reports disclosed international interest from Arsenal, Barcelona, and Paris Saint-Germain among others. The deal with her new NWSL club includes an option for 2025.
"As a professional athlete, I always want to get better and to be on a competitive team that fights for titles, with excellent professionals," said Debinha in a club statement. "I'm sure it will help me in that goal and Kansas City showed that last season. The plan that the club has shown me left me really motivated because of the entire training facility and the construction of a stadium for a women's team. All of this made me want to be part of it and made me think about being here today. I'm happy for this new journey that is just beginning."
Kansas City entered the offseason as runners-up in the 2022 NWSL Championship final. It was an instantaneous turnaround from their last-place finish during their inaugural season in 2021, and one the club wanted to build on in the offseason. Club general manager Camille Levin Ashton has had a busy offseason that includes re-signing numerous players from the Current's 2022 deep playoff run including Kate Del Fava, Alex Loera, and Hailie Mace. They also signed Swedish forward Mimmi Larsson via FC Rosengard.
The new players and numerous moves will only build on their near worst-to-first finish. The team already made a splash when they signed veteran midfielders Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa Dibernardo in free agency.
"Debinha is one of the best players in the world and we are so excited to have her in Kansas City," said Ashton. "She's a force on the pitch and has shown that over the last decade. She will be a tremendous contributor to the team, and we are happy to have her on our side."
The pitch for Kansas City
At the beginning of the 2022 season, the team acquired U.S. women's national team players Lynn Williams and Samantha Mewis but lost Williams to a season-ending hamstring injury. Mewis was shut down midseason after an ongoing and lingering right leg issue. Despite the enormous setbacks, the team made additional midseason acquisitions, trading for CeCe Kizer and signing French international Claire Lavogez.
The club also announced a state-of-the-art NWSL training facility midyear, and the new player additions helped lead the Current through the 2022 NWSL playoffs and into the championship final. The Current were the only club among the four 2022 NWSL semifinalists that were not representing the west coast like Portland, Seattle, and San Diego. Their breakthrough to the final under long-shot circumstances bucked thefor the league in the near future.
The success of 2022 was a landmark for the franchise, as it showcased that they are well ahead of their organizational build. The club is also in the process of building the first-ever NWSL-specific stadium, which is naturally an ideal selling point for players alongside their recent run of success. Each of their free agents have referred to the franchise's current structure, success, and facilities as key points in their willingness to sign.
Early champagne problems?
While Kansas City are the winners of the Debinha sweepstakes, her arrival already presents some question marks for the team in 2023. Where does Mewis fit in and does she have a role with this club in 2023? Does this mean free agent veteran Desiree Scott will not return to Kansas City?
The additions of Gautrat and DiBernardo may have already presented answers to some of those questions. Especially with Lavogez still rehabbing from an ACL injury she sustained in the playoffs. Lo'eau LaBonta had a stellar 2022 season with the club in the middle third, and alongside Scott, the midfield provided physical challenges to any opposition. With the additions of Gautrat, DiBernardo, and Debinha -- players who excel in possession and thrive with the ball at their feet -- the team will look much different from their pin-and-win routine in 2022.
There will be an adjustment period between new players and established players, but the experience of playing in the league for several years now will likely expedite the process a bit. Debinha's arrival to Kansas City also means she'll be reunited with several former North Carolina Courage teammates in Williams, Mewis, and Kristen Hamilton.
The 2023 NWSL Draft will take place on Thursday, Jan. 12, live on CBS Sports HQ. It will be the Current's third time participating in the event as a franchise. They have seven picks in the upcoming event but don't have any first-round selections at this time.