Jillian Loyden is back in professional soccer.

The Vineland native was one of seven players allocated to New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC by the new National Women's Soccer League on Friday.

"I'm really excited to be staying in my home state and playing with Christie (Rampone) and Kelley (O'Hara)," Loyden, a goalkeeper, said in a phone interview Friday evening.

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Rampone and O'Hara won gold medals with the U.S. national team at the London Olympics last year. Loyden was an alternate on that team. Rampone, a Point Pleasant Borough resident, is the U.S. team captain.

Loyden just found out Friday afternoon that she had been assigned to a team, and she still does not know details about when she will go to training camp. The 27-year-old still needs to work out a contract.

The most important thing, though, is that she's playing. A previous league, Women's Professional Soccer, suspended its operations last January and folded in May.

Four of the eight teams in the NWSL came from WPS, including Sky Blue FC.

"I'm really excited because this country really needs a league," Loyden said. "Right now we have the best national team in the world and we really need a feeder program."

Loyden spent the last three WPS seasons with St. Louis Athletica, the Chicago Red Stars and Florida-based magicJack.

This season, friends and family will have an easier time getting to her games. Sky Blue FC is based in Morristown and will play its games at Rutgers University's Yurcak Field in Piscataway.

"Everybody's excited to have me back home," Loyden said. "It should be good."

Loyden was The Press Player of the Year in 2002 for Vineland High School. She went on to star at Villanova University, earning Big East Conference Goalkeeper of the Year honors three times. She was the third-string goalkeeper for the U.S. in the 2010 Women's World Cup.

"Jill is a top goalkeeper in this allocation and will give us a solid starter for the season," Sky Blue FC coach Jim Gabarra said in a news release Friday. "Her game has matured and developed to the point where she is ready to be the number one in the NWSL."

In addition to Loyden, Rampone and O'Hara, Sky Blue FC was allocated two players each from the Mexican and Canadian Olympic teams: Monica Ocampo and Nayeli Rangel of Mexico, and Melanie Booth and Sophie Schmidt of Canada. The rest of the rosters will be filled out through a draft next Friday.

The schedule has not been released yet, but the league's website said the season will start in the spring. Loyden said she's excited to get to training camp.

"I'm just looking forward to that next date and trying to get prepared," she said.

Notes: Delran native and Olympic star Carli Lloyd was allocated to Western New York, as was FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Abby Wambach.

Contact Jason Mazda:


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