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Page last updated at 18:04 GMT, Sunday, 8 February 2009

Smith quits Arsenal for US league

By Tony Leighton

Kelly Smith
Smith is regarded as one of the best players in the women's game

England striker Kelly Smith has stunned Arsenal by quitting the club to play in the United States' new Women's Professional Soccer league.

Smith, 30, has agreed a four-year deal with Boston Breakers and joins team-mates Karen Carney and Alex Scott who are also crossing the Atlantic.

Boston have yet to officially announce Smith's signing, but her loss will be a big blow to England's top club side.

"A four-year contract adds longevity to my career," said Smith.

I wouldn't want to miss out on the opportunity to play for my country whenever I'm selected

Kelly Smith
"It's been great playing for Arsenal, they've been really good to me and it's a wrench to leave. But they've got more than enough quality to still be the best team in the country."

Despite that strength in depth, Arsenal manager Vic Akers will urgently seek new players, as will Chelsea boss Steve Jones after losing Anita Asante and Eni Aluko to America.

Smith will be one of the WPS's highest earners while Carney, Scott, Aluko and Asante will also earn substantially higher amounts than they could make in England.

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"I couldn't earn anywhere near to what I'll be getting in the WPS if I stayed in this country," added Smith. "But it's not just about money.

"It's about playing with and against the best players in the world, training every day and everything else that goes with being a professional footballer."

Scott, like Smith, is to join Boston while Carney has signed for Chicago Red Stars, Aluko for St Louis Athletica and Asante for the New York and New Jersey team Sky Blue.

All five players are key members of the England squad and with the European Championship finals set for August, their loss is likely to hamper the team's preparations.

The blow has been softened, however, by clauses in the players' contracts that will see them released for Euro 2009 build-up matches as well as the tournament itself.

Smith said: "I love playing for England and if that clause had not been in my contract I wouldn't have signed it.

"I'm really looking forward to playing in the WPS, but I wouldn't want to miss out on the opportunity to play for my country whenever I'm selected."

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