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Where EAST meets the Northwest

MAGICAL MIDFIELDER. Midfielder Hina Sugita, left, of the Portland Thorns plays in a National Women’s Soccer League soccer match in Seattle in this June 3, 2023 file photo. Sugita has signed a contract extension through 2026 with the Thorns. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson, File)

From The Asian Reporter, V34, #01 (January 1, 2024), page 15.

Midfielder Hina Sugita to remain with Thorns FC through 2026

Hina Sugita has signed a contract extension with Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), which will keep the nearly 27-year-old midfielder (her birthday is January 31) in Portland through 2026. Sugita originally arrived in Oregon in 2022 through a transfer with Japanese club INAC Kobe Leonessa.

During her first season in Portland, Sugita appeared in 21 games, tallied five goals, and gave four assists. In 2023, she scored eight goals and handed out three assists in 27 appearances.

Since joining the Thorns, Sugita ranks in the top four amongst all Portland players in duels won (190), tackles won (47), chances created (65), and dribbles completed (43). Additionally, she has kept the best passing accuracy rate (81.95) of all midfielders and forwards for the club over the last two seasons combined.

"We are thrilled Hina has chosen to sign a long-term contract in Portland. It demonstrates her commitment to the club and community and solidifies her as part of the Thorns family for years to come," shared Karina LeBlanc, Thorns FC general manager and president of soccer operations. "Hina’s obviously a special talent and adds a unique flare to our style of play. We are lucky to have a player of her caliber and character on the roster."

"Hina has had a massively positive impact for us in her two years here, not only on the field but also off the field. We are over the moon that she has committed her longer-term future with us," said Mike Norris, head coach of the Thorns. "She has not only adapted extremely well to our team, she also continues to set new standards for what it means to be a Thorn. Hina’s tireless work rate coupled with her fantastic technical fluidity make her a great asset to our team and also a fan favorite."

At the senior international level, Sugita has made 46 appearances for Team Japan, tallying three goals. A member of their 2023 Women’s World Cup squad, Sugita appeared in three matches at the tournament during the summer, including Japan’s quarterfinal match against Sweden.

During the offseason, the NWSL added two expansion teams — Bay FC and the Utah Royals. The addition brings the total number of clubs in the league to 14.

The NWSL season will kick off March 16. Each squad will compete in 26 regular season matches, 13 at home and 13 on the road. The 182-match regular season will be played over 25 weeks and the schedule will avoid staging NWSL matches during FIFA windows. Eight teams will qualify for the playoffs. The quarterfinal round will be held November 9 and 10, with the semifinals taking place November 16 and 17. The championship match is scheduled for November 23. To learn more, or to buy tickets, visit <>.

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