- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 18, 2017

LOS ANGELES (AP) - U.S. women’s national team forward Mallory Pugh has decided to leave UCLA for a professional soccer career.

Pugh, 18, enrolled at UCLA this winter and played in three spring games. She was expected to embark on her freshman season in the fall.

“UCLA is such a special place, and being a Bruin was an incredible thing. 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,” she said in a statement.

Pugh could join the domestic National Women’s Soccer League or perhaps play overseas. She has not announced a destination.

Pugh has played in 22 matches with the U.S. national team since she scored in her international debut in January 2016.

She represented the United States in the Olympics last summer in Brazil and became the youngest American with an Olympic goal when she scored in the group stage against Colombia.

The Washington Spirit has the top spot in the NWSL’s distribution order and can claim her rights if she decides to play in that league, which opened its season last weekend.

She could join fellow national team players Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn in playing overseas.

A native of Colorado, Pugh also played on the under-17 and under-20 U.S. national teams, and turned heads when she captained the team that won the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship in 2015, earning the Golden Boot award for most goals with seven.

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