Racing Louisville FC announced a trade with Chicago Red Stars on Monday ahead of the 2020 expansion draft.
Chicago Red Stars traded forwards Savannah McCaskill and Japanese international Yuki Nagasato to Louisville in exchange for full roster protection in the upcoming draft in November. The trade marks a first of its kind in NWSL, a public agreement of trading assets for roster protection in an expansion draft. Louisville will also receive an extra international slot for the 2021 and 2022 seasons as well as the Red Stars' first-round pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, No. 5 overall.
"We are proud to have Savannah and Yūki join our club," Racing Louisville FC coach Christy Holly said in a statement. "Both players bring a wealth of talent to our organization and will be influential on and off the field. We feel that they both possess a combination of hunger and experience that's instrumental as we lay the foundation to what we feel will be a very exciting and talented team for the 2021 NWSL season and beyond."
The move will reunite McCaskill with Holly, whom she played for back with Sky Blue FC back in 2018 after being selected via Dispersal Draft from now defunct Boston Breakers. It will be only the second NWSL club for Nagasato who joined the Red Stars back in 2017.
The announcement gives Louisville a look at its first new players ahead of 2021. Two attacking playmakers with the ability to create and generate offense. Nagasato, a 2011 World Cup winner with her native Japan and the 2019 NWSL assist leader, played three seasons for the Red Stars. Since 2004, she has suited up for her home country in three World Cups and two Olympic Games, tallying 132 caps and 58 goals for the team.
The 24-year-old McCaskill from Chapin, South Carolina, made 28 appearances for Chicago over the past two years after being acquired back in 2019. She scored two goals and assisted three more during her time in Chicago, including a goal in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup semifinal. She made her national team debut in January of 2018 during a friendly against Denmark and went on to appear in all three of the United States' SheBelieves Cup games. McCaskill has also starred in Australia's W-League, scoring twice in the championship game while on loan as Sydney FC won the 2019 title.
The move, completed within the trade window but revealed days after the NWSL trade announcement deadline, raises questions about future expansion drafts, and the rules ahead of this year's draft -- which have yet to be formally announced. In prior years, expansions drafts allowed teams to protect up to two allocated players. A looming task for a Chicago squad that currently has five USWNT allocated players. On a media call, owner Arnim Whisler confirmed there were multiple reasons for the move, some of which included finances among others.
"I think one of the hardest things to explain is the number of things that were being traded off," Whisler said.
"What's the right mix of players? So, you look at the depth chart. Where we're strong, where we're weak -- you have to look at the financials, right? Salaries. You know salaries matter. Allocated players matter -- not just because they're some of the best players in the world, and they've won World Cups, but because their salary is lower than other players on the roster.
"At the end of the day [we] have to balance a lot of things and trade off a lot of things to make sure that we keep our fans happy, are able to win on the field, stay sustainable, and able to manage the losses in women's pro sports."
Red Stars coach Rory Dames discussed the move, mentioning the unique details of inquiring about protecting the remainder of his current squad. By inquiring for protections for larger parts of Chicago's roster, which currently has several allocated players, Dames was able to insure their tenure with the Red Stars moving forward.
"We had a conversation with Louisville for probably for two days, then it kind of died down, then it picks back up on Tuesday. And, yeah, when we sent that into the league, we were told it was something we could do though, [so] we did.
"Trades are never easy ... We certainly did not want to lose Savannah or Yuki. They've both been big parts of what we've done in the last year and a half. Yuki's connection to the city, the fan base. Her professionalism has raised standards in our team that I don't even knew that they existed prior to her being here. So it, it's a loss that will ripple through the group, I'm sure. And then you know Savannah, especially after the year she had. It's hard to move her on because of the growth she showed this year."
Expansion draft is set to take place on Nov. 12 this year. NWSL trade window closed on Oct. 22, and protected roster lists are due to the league on Nov. 4, and to be revealed to the public on Nov. 5.