Dreams will come true on Thursday as the 2023 NWSL Draft takes place in Philadelphia. All 12 clubs will participate in four rounds of selections during the annual occasion. Over 250 players have registered for the event but only 48 will hear their names called on draft day with Angel City FC boasting the No. 1 selection after trading for it last week. Fans can watch all the action from start to finish on Paramount+ and CBS Sports HQ at 6 p.m. ET. CBS Sports Network will carry the first hour from 6 to 7 p.m. ET.
The NWSL draft registration is officially closed, so let's take a look at the current first-round order and predict who will be selected:
1. Angel City FC -- Alyssa Thompson
School: High school (Harvard-Westlake Prep School)
The 18-year-old California native has been linked with the west coast side after the recent multi-team trade saw the No. 1 pick go from NJ/NY Gotham FC to Angel City. The Harvard-Westlake Prep School senior had already inked a NIL deal with Nike, making her the first ever high schooler to sign such a deal. She previously committed to Stanford University, but has since decommitted and registered for the 2023 draft post the blockbuster trade between Angel City, Portland Thorns FC, Gotham FC, and Orlando Pride.
The tiered trades made by Angel City with Portland and Gotham ultimately sent $450,000 in allocation money to move from the No. 5 spot to the No. 1 selection in the draft. You don't spend that amount of money on a potential talent only to have them on the sidelines. She recently spent time with the senior U.S. women's national team at the end of 2022, and while the USWNT are slowly acclimating the young Thompson, expect Angel City FC head coach Freya Coomb and staff to do the opposite. Look for the coaching staff to forge an early path for Thompson alongside veteran forwards Christen Press and Sydney Leroux this year.
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2. NJ/NY Gotham FC -- Michelle Cooper
School: Duke University
Cooper completed her sophomore year at Duke University with a quarterfinals appearance during the College Cup where she scored a brace. The Blue Devils fell short of reaching the NCAA final, but Cooper made 21 starts over 22 appearances, scoring 19 goals and recording 11 assists. To cap off her 2022, she was the recipient of the Mac Hermann trophy as the best college player and has experience captaining the USWNT U-20 team where she earned the Golden Boot and Golden Ball in the Concacaf Qualifying tournament.
Her tactical ability on the ball combined with fierce velocity could be an asset for a Gotham FC side that struggled to score last season. Cooper could slot in on the pitch with Midge Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu, with Kristie Mewis and Yazmeen Ryan as support in the midfield.
3. Orlando Pride -- Izzy D'Aquila
School: Santa Clara University
The forward out of Santa Clara enters the draft as the top-rated forward. While Orlando needs some defenders and midfield depth, D'Aquila's 50 goals and 14 assists during her time in Santa Clara could make her a lock at No. 3 for Orlando if Thompson and Cooper go first and second. She won the 2020 NCAA national championship and was a College Cup semifinalist in 2021. She established herself among the top forwards as the West Coast Conference 2019 Freshman of the Year, and later in her college career earned all-American first-team honors.
4. Racing Louisville FC -- Clara Robbins
School: Florida State University
There is lots of talent to choose from in the upcoming draft, including some players with ties to clubs already. Florida State's Clara Robbins has spent time with Racing's USL-W side during their 2022 season and could be selected by the club for this slot. Combined with her success at Florida State University, Robbins is considered the most "NWSL ready" of the midfielders available on the draft boards.
5. Portland Thorns FC -- Emily Madril
School: Florida State University
The Thorns acquired the No. 5 selection from Angel City FC via trade ahead of draft day. Their eagerness to move higher into the draft could signal they are looking to add an extra piece that can come onto their roster and make an impact immediately. Madril made a bit of history with the NWSL previously as the only player to ever sign a contract directly with the league through 2025.
After she made the decision to forgo the remainder of her NCAA eligibility at Florida State University, the contract provided room to have her draft rights distributed and not forfeit her eligibility for the 2023 NWSL Draft. She recently played with BK Häcken FF of the Swedish Damallsvenskan on a short loan and is another draftee considered "NWSL ready."
6. N.C. Courage -- Alexa Spaanstra
School: University of Virginia
Spaanstra has been a featured name on draft boards since 2021, and now that she is officially registered for the 2023 draft, look for her to go in the first round. The University of Virginia forward racked up 37 goals and 34 assists during 107 games. After the departure of star player Debinha, the Courage could look for an attacking player that can pick up minutes for them. Spaanstra is a good selection that can play out wide and be reunited on the top line with her collegiate teammate and 2022 NWSL rookie of the year finalist, Diana Ordonez.
7. Chicago Red Stars -- Penelope Hocking
School: Penn State University
The Chicago Red Stars are one of the teams that need to build out their roster after a mass exodus of players from free agency. They could benefit by making a selection for nearly any position, especially the midfield, but look for the Red Stars to add to the attack with Hocking. The Penn State forward previously spent four years with USC before entering the transfer portal and making the leap to the Big 10. While at USC she broke a 21-year record for all-time leading scorer by recording 48 career goals.
Her addition to the Red Stars roster could provide an immediate boost to Chicago's front line and be an extra outlet of support for Mallory Swanson. Hocking is coming off a 2022 season where she provided 11 assists over 23 appearances.
8. Houston Dash -- Messiah Bright
School: Texas Christian University
Houston recently resigned numerous pieces for their backline, ensuring the return of Ally Prisock at the center back position and Allysha Chapman at outside back. The team is coming off its first-ever NWSL postseason appearance and will likely want to build off its recent success. New head coach Sam Laity and general manager Alex Singer may look to lock up some more attacking depth at this selection after the loss of Canadian international Nichelle Prince to an ACL injury. Forward Messiah Bright from Texas Christian University may provide the answers for the Dash after a strong collegiate career with 50 goals and 25 assists in 100 appearances.
9. North Carolina Courage -- Tori Hansen
School: University of North Carolina
North Carolina acquired the No. 9 overall pick in a trade with San Diego Wave FC and have set themselves up for another strong draft in 2023. Look for the team to try and add depth to the defensive side of the ball and go with a local standout in Tori Hansen from the University of North Carolina. Hansen is coming off a College Cup runner-up finish with UNC, and the 5-foot-10 standout could be a safe but solid pick here if she's available.
10. Kansas City Current -- Reyna Reyes
School: University of Alabama
The Current are among teams in the first round of the draft order but have made massive moves this season to build out their roster through free agency and re-signing players. Their needs at this point are minor, especially after landing Debinha, and they'll likely make picks for depth, so the possibility of the club listening for draft day offers could be realistic. The club is no stranger to making big moves and selections on draft day, which is why they may shock the draft world again and opt to take a big-name defender on the board if Reyna Reyes is still available. The Alabama defender is versatile out wide and can play higher up the pitch if needed.
11. North Carolina Courage -- Riley Mattingly Parker
School: University of Alabama
Another versatile option on draft boards, forward Riley Mattingly Parker out of Alabama could be another attacking option for North Carolina if they want to continue to explore options in that role. She provided 17 goals and seven assists for Alabama in 2022 and helped the Crimson Tide reach that long, ever-elusive spot in the College Cup semifinals for the first time. She'd be another asset to a Courage side looking to build out a dynamic attack with young players in the mix.
12. Portland Thorns FC -- Jylissa Harris
School: University of South Carolina
Harris is a center back out of South Carolina and could be another defensive option for a Portland side looking ahead to the future of their backline. The addition of Harris, along with the possibility of drafting Madrill, could provide a look at a future defensive duo as Portland also aim to build an attacking duo through the draft in 2020 with Sophia Smith and Morgan Weaver.