The National Women's Soccer League will hold their ninth annual draft on Wednesday. The ongoing pandemic has forced the league and prospective players to take a look at the unknowns in front of them, and the event will take place virtually instead of in person.
Here's how you can watch the draft and what to know:
- Date: Wednesday, Jan. 13
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- Live stream: Twitch
What is the NWSL draft?
Once referred to as the NWSL college draft, the league rebranded as the NWSL draft for 2021 as more players sought out professional avenues to leave college and turn professional earlier. Previously, players were selected after completing collegiate terms, while in recent years rule shifts have paved the way for younger players in the middle of their college playing years to go pro. Tierna Davidson (19'), Sophia Smith (20'), and Ashley Sanchez (20') are all recent players who have forgone their college eligibly to take the jump to go pro.
NWSL teams participate in four rounds during the draft process, with each team getting a number of timeouts to utilize as well. The introduction of Racing Louisville FC as the newest expansion team will round out the leagues teams to 10, with all clubs participating and Louisville holding the number one pick overall.
What is different about this year's draft?
Both professional and collegiate seasons were heavily impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In an effort to try and conduct the draft in a way that would give players maximum flexibility, the league sought out a waiver with the NCAA that would allow student-athletes who registered for the draft to decide if they will report to their NWSL club before or after the spring collegiate season.
The NCAA ultimately approved the waiver, though not until registration for the draft had already begun, allowing DI student-athletes to register for the draft, go through the process and still have until January 22, 2021 to decide if they plan to report to the team that drafted them on February 1 to begin preseason, or if they plan to play collegiately in the spring season and then report to NWSL.
But because the waiver approval process took so long, and because there were so many unresolved questions around adjusted seasons both collegiately and professionally, the number of players declaring themselves eligible for the draft decreased, leading to another change. In an attempt to broaden the player pool of selection, the league approved another rule adjustment to the draft. The draft registration requirement was eliminated, essentially expanding the eligible player pool.
With the pandemic delaying the NCAA soccer season for spring 2021, the league waived the requirement for certain college athletes to register for the draft and play in the league. All Division I players with three years of intercollegiate soccer eligibility prior to the 2020-2021 academic year are now available for draft selection. Should a player be selected by a club, the team will hold the player rights until the beginning of the 2022 preseason.
They are all bold choices that are meant to give teams more options for player selections this year, but ultimately ones made out of necessity as opposed to a slower more considered process. But, despite the newness, teams will be quite familiar with the concept of drafting players who ultimately decide not to play for them. There have been numerous players in past drafts who have declared for the draft, but chose not to report to the club that selected them, choosing instead to play overseas.
Who has declared?
While the registration requirement for the draft was eliminated therefore expanding the player pool, the league released a registered player list ahead of the NWSL draft on Wednesday. There are currently 49 registered players with 40 selections available over the four rounds. Players are listed with their University, positions played, hometown, youth club, and citizenship.
Arthurs, Carli: Stephen F. Austin State University (F/M/D ) Lewisville, TX, Solar Chelsea Soccer Club | United States
Ashworth-Clifford, Lucy: Lamar University (F) Cheshire, England, Manchester City, United Kingdom
Badawiya, Rola: California Baptist University (F/M) Riverside, CA, Pateadores, United States
Baltrip-Reyes, Carina: University of Florida (D) Pflugerville, TX, Dallas Texans Soccer Club, United States
Baumbick, Alyssa: Ohio State University (M) Avon Lake, OH, Cleveland Internationals Soccer Club, United States
Berg, Hale: University of Texas at Austin (F/M) Celina, TX, Solar, United States
Betfort, Hannah: Wake Forest University (F/D) Wake Forest University, Charleston, SC, United Soccer Academy Mount Pleasant, United States
Bryan, Sabrina: Hofstra University (F/M) Cecil, PA, Pittsburgh Riverhounds Academy, United States
Cassalia, Sydney: Army West Point (GK) Omaha, NE, Elite Girls Academy, United States
Collins, Kaylie: University of Southern California (GK) Clayton, CA, Mustang ECNL, United States
Del Valle, Yasmin: West Virginia University Institution of Technology (F/M/D) Orlando Florida, ACYS, United States
Drawdy, Morgan: Austin Peay State University (F/M) Merritt Island, FL, Northwest United FC, United States
Ekic, Emina: University of Louisville (F/M) Louisville, KY, Javanon FC, United States
Fagundes, Larissa: Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi (F/M) Rio Do Sul, Brazil, Felej, Brazil
Ford, Harlie: Webber International University (M/D) Poinciana, FL, Stetson FA, United States
Gorzak, Alissa: University of Virginia (F) Naperville, IL, Eclipse Select Soccer Club, United States
Gyau, Mia-Irene: Duke University (F/M/D) Silver Spring, MD, McLean U-18 ECNL, United States
Hall, Kyleigh: Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi (GK) Mansfield, TX, Dallas Texans, United States
Heilferty, Anna: Boston University (F/M) Falls Church, VA, Annandale United FC (VA), United States
Hipp, Jenny University of Massachusetts (F/M) Frankfurt, Germany, FFC Turbine Potsdam, Germany
Kallash, Anika: Central Methodist University (F/M) Troy, MO, Missouri Thorns, United States
Kurosaki, Yuuka: University of Oklahoma (M) Kitakyushu-Shi, Fukuoka, Fujieda Junshin High School, Japan
Kurz, Lena: University of Illinois (GK) Ludwigshafen, Germany, TSV Neckarau, Germany
Larisey, Clarissa: University of Memphis (F) Ottawa, ON, Otawa South United, Canada
Lebelt, Amanda: Centenary University (F/M) Milford, NJ, FC Copa, United States
Lino, Samara: University of Montevallo (M) Montevallo, AL, Palo Alto, Brazil & Portugal
Lopes, Julia: West High School Torrance (F/M) Torrance, CA, La Roca, United States & Brazil
Marshall, Amber: Utah State University (M/D) Syracuse, UT, Santa Rosa United, United States
McCain, Addie: Texas A&M University (M) Lavon, TX, FC Dallas, United States
McMillan, Caylon: Stephen F. Austin State University (M) Forney, TX, ECNL 98G FC Dallas, United States
Mitchell, Taylor: Duke University (D) Tarzana, CA, Real So Cal, United States
Moyer, Shea: Penn State University (M) Wyomissing, PA, FC Revolution, United States
Nbwateme, Sandra: Southwestern Oklahoma State University (F) Kampala, Uganda, Kawempe Muslim ladies team, Uganda
Otto, Taylor: University of North Carolina (M/D) Apex, NC, CASL, United States
Parker, Lucy: University of California, Los Angeles (D) Cambridge, England, Arsenal Women FC, United Kingdom
Pickett, Victoria: University of Wisconsin-Madison (M) Barrie, ON, Glen Shields Football Club, Canada
Pickett, Kiara "Kiki": Stanford University (F/M/D) Santa Barbara, CA, Camarillo Eagles Soccer Club, United States
Pinto, Brianna: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (F/M) Durham, NC, NTH TopHat (USDA) / CASL (ECNL), United States
Prathapa, Jenna: Xavier University (F/M/D) Upper Saddle River, NJ, New Jersey Stallions Dynamite, United States
Rodman, Trinity: Washington State University (F) Newport Beach, CA, Socal Blues, United States
Rodriguez, Karina: UCLA (M/D) Torrance, CA, So Cal Blues S.C., United States
Rosette, Samantha: Villanova University (F/M/D) Bronx, NY,NJ Stallions Dynamite, United States
Ryan, Yazmeen: Texas Christian University (F/M/D) Norman, OK, Oklahoma Celtic, United States
Schnurr, Kristin: Penn State University (F/M) Bristow, VA, McClean ECNL, United States
Sheehan, Delanie: University of California, Los Angeles (M/D) Brentwood, CA, West Coast Soccer Club, United States
Sornpao, Tiffany: Kennesaw State University (GK) Duluth, GA, UFA of Norcross, United States
Talbot, Madeline: Stephen F. Austin State University (GK) Shreveport, LA, Shreveport United, United States
Termini, Katelyn: Stephen F. Austin (F/M) Frisco, TX, Solar Chelsea ECNL, United States
Toth, MaKayla: University of Central Missouri (F/M) Wichita, KS, Sporting Kaw Valley, United States
Vasey, Elisabeth: University of Wisconsin – Green Bay (F/M/D) Phoenix, AZ, Sereno ECN, United States
The league put out a list of players who specifically declared for the draft despite the new rule adjustment giving teams a more concrete picture of which eligible players in the draft do, in fact, actively want to get drafted. The chaotic nature of this years draft means that there will be some players who do not desire to be selected at all, with their playing rights held as an asset for the foreseeable future, while others will be one step closer to achieving a personal dream of playing professional soccer.
The excitement around this particular year is different, compared to years prior, and if the draft is successful, the energy initially generated through the uncertainty of changing the rules on the fly could pave the way for future draft adjustments next year.