Top recruit Pugh leaving UCLA soccer team

Mal Pugh, who last summer became the youngest U.S. player to score a goal in Olympic soccer competition, is leaving UCLA to turn pro after playing just three spring games for the Bruins.

Pugh, 18, who also scored in her international debut last year, enrolled at UCLA in the winter quarter and was due to begin her freshman season next fall.

“This decision was certainly not easy for me to make,” Pugh, who was the top recruit in the country coming out of Colorado’s Mountain Vista High School, said in a statement. “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.”

Pugh has given no public indication if she intends to play in the U.S.’ National Women’s Soccer League or in Europe.

Pugh has played 22 games with the national team, scoring four times — including a go-ahead goal against Colombia in Olympic group play — and earning 10 assists. She also was honored as the 2015 U.S. Soccer young female player of the year and won both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards at the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 women’s championships.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: kbaxter11

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