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ORLANDO, Fla. (July 1, 2022) — Orlando Pride has signed Maltese forward Haley Bugeja (boo-JAE-yuh) through the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League season, it was announced today. Bugeja, one of the most promising young forwards in global soccer, joins the Pride from Italian Serie A side US Sassuolo.

Most recently, the 18-year-old was named No. 3 on GOAL.com’s NXGN 2022: The 20 best wonderkids in women's football, her second-consecutive year on the list, and No. 15 on ESPN’s 21 Best Women Players 21 or Under.

“Haley is one of the brightest young talents in the world and we are absolutely thrilled to have her join our Club. She has already shown her quality at a high level in Italy and at the international level with Malta, and she is still just scratching the surface of the player that she can become,” said Orlando Pride General Manager Ian Fleming. “She is a constant threat to opposing defenses and will be a valuable addition to our group, both in the immediate and moving into the future, as we continue to build and bolster our roster. We are all very excited to see her in Orlando, as a member of our Pride, very soon.”

Bugeja made her professional debut just two years ago, a game that saw her score two goals in Sassuolo's 3-1 win over Napoli, including a highlight-reel first goal. The forward went on to lead her team with 12 goals over the course of her rookie season, finishing as a top five scorer in Serie A, while Sassuolo nearly reached the UEFA Women’s Champion League.

Following that 2020-21 season, Bugeja was named as the best player in Serie A, won Malta’s Atlas Youth Athlete of the Year and was named to the 2021 IFFHS Women’s U-20 Best XI, the first Maltese player to earn the honor. She was also named as one of UEFA’s top 10 women’s players to watch.

Bugeja’s 2021-22 season with Sassuolo was impacted by injury, totaling three goals for her side.

On the international stage, Bugeja has represented Malta at the youth and senior levels. She earned her first senior cap in 2019 at just 14 years old, starting in a friendly match against Romania, with her first international goal coming in 2020 in a friendly match against Turkey. She scored four more goals that year, including a hat-trick in Malta’s win over Georgia in UEFA Women's Euro 2022 qualification play, becoming the youngest women’s player to notch a hat trick in European qualifier history.

A native of Pietà, Malta, Bugeja will join the Pride pending the receipt of a P-1 visa and International Transfer Certificate (ITC).

The Orlando Pride returns to action on Sunday, July 3, welcoming Racing Louisville FC as part of the first-ever DAYTONA SoccerFest. The two sides will square off on the infield of the iconic Daytona International Speedway, in an 8 p.m. ET kickoff on CBS Sports Network. Tickets for the soccer and music festival are available at DaytonaSoccerFest.com.

TRANSACTION:**

Orlando Pride signs forward Haley Bugeja through the 2023 NWSL season.

Haley Bugeja (boo-JAE-uh)**

Position: Forward

Number: 7

Height: 5-9

Born: May 5, 2004 in Pietà, Malta

Hometown: Birkirkara, Malta

College: n/a

Citizenship: MLT