Racing Louisville FC gained championship experience and two of the most decorated defenders in the National Women’s Soccer League in Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett, who were acquired via a trade announced Monday with the North Carolina Courage.
In exchange, Racing Louisville sent defender Emily Fox to the Courage.
“This is a big move for us,” Racing head coach Kim Björkegren said. “Obviously Emily is a player of high quality. This trade, however, returns a great player at the left-back position in Carson and gives us a veteran central defender in Abby. Both players have great experience and talent and can help lead this team.”
Erceg and Pickett have extensive playing experience in the United States and abroad, and they played key roles in helping North Carolina win the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup. The 33-year-old Erceg has played in Australia, Germany, New Zealand and Spain, while Pickett, 29, also completed loan spells in Australia and Cyprus, where she played for Björkegren’s former club, Apollon Ladies.
Erceg, a center back with 160 NWSL and Challenge Cup appearances, is one of the most accomplished players in league history. She won three regular-season NWSL Shields and three NWSL Championships with the Western New York Flash and the Courage.
In eight-plus years in the league, the New Zealander has claimed the 2018 NWSL Defender of the Year award as well as 2018 Best XI and 2017 and 2019 Second XI honors. She was also named to the 2020 Challenge Cup Best XI.
On the international stage, Erceg made 146 appearances for the New Zealand national team, scoring six goals and leading the Football Ferns to four World Cups and four Olympic Games. She was the first New Zealander to reach 100 caps for either the men’s or women’s national teams.
“I am excited to be joining Racing Louisville for the 2023 season,” Erceg said. “They are a young but progressing team in the league, and I am ready to bring in some of my experience in the hopes that we can all reach the utmost potential of the team together. I am optimistic that the new challenges and opportunities that are to come will continue to develop my career as a player, and I am looking forward to meeting all the girls soon.”
“Abby is great central defender,” Björkegren said. “She is strong and good in the air. Her first touch is really good and very good even under pressure. Her leadership and quality will help this young group a lot.”
Pickett, a left back who was the fourth pick in the 2016 NWSL Draft, is a back-to-back Best XI selection over the past two seasons and won a national championship in 2014 with Florida State. The Florida native led the NWSL in assists this past season with six, a year after tying for second in the league with five.
In all, Pickett has one goal and 16 assists in 130 NWSL appearances with the Courage, OL Reign and Orlando Pride and has regularly ranked among the league leaders in chances created and interceptions, among other areas. She made her U.S. Women’s National Team debut this past June, appearing in two matches, after featuring for the U-17 and U-23 U.S. Youth National Teams.
“I cannot express how excited I am to be joining Racing Louisville,” Pickett said. “I look forward to continuing to build on the winning culture of the team and to ultimately win NWSL championships. I can’t think of a better club to be continuing my career with. I am so excited to meet my new teammates and get the chance to play in front of the Racing fans. I would like to thank Kim and the entire organization for this opportunity.”
“I coached Carson for a short while in Cyprus,” Björkegren said. “She has a great personality, she is positive and, of course, she is a very good player. Her left foot is probably not just one of the best in the league but in the world.”
Fox will go down in club history as the team’s first college draft pick, the No. 1 overall choice in the 2021 NWSL Draft. The left back closed out her time with Racing after 50 league and Challenge Cup appearances. She was a Second XI selection and runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 2021.
A Virginia native, Fox tallied one goal and two assists in her time with Louisville and became a regular with the U.S. Women’s National Team in the process, making 21 appearances.
“Emily has been one of the best outside backs I have coached,” Björkegren said. “She is a great person and has been very popular in the group, and I really wish her the best!”
The trade comes just before the start of Racing Louisville’s preseason, which kicks off this week, and the announcement of No. 1 goalkeeper Katie Lund’s contract extension through 2025. Lund’s deal added to the string of contract extensions Racing has inked with its young core since last fall – midfielders Savannah DeMelo, Jaelin Howell and Lauren Milliet also signed through 2025.
Racing finished the 2022 campaign on a high, winning three of its final four matches, including a 1-0 victory in the regular-season finale against the Kansas City Current, the eventual NWSL runner-up.
Racing’s 22-game regular season this year will play out over seven months, starting on Saturday, March 25, and concluding in mid-October. A full schedule is pending, with season, group and premium tickets on sale now by visiting RacingLouFC.com/tickets.