For the first time in two years, the NWSL Draft was held in an in-person setting as 48 individuals experienced their lifelong dreams come true.
It was a historic night in the city of brotherly love for the 11th annual NWSL Draft. From jaw-dropping trades to women seeing their dreams come true in the sport they love, this season’s version of the draft had everything and more. 48 former college stars in the women’s game now turn their eyes to the professional game as they seek to make an immediate impact for the respective club that provided them with an opportunity.
With the new NWSL CBA involving the first-ever league free agency period, there was no question that this draft was going to be one of the most chaotic the NWSL has seen. It was the first time in two years that the draft was held in person, and the fans and sports community had a chance to see these inspiring young women walk across the stage which makes every draft in American sports so special. Many critics said last season’s draft class was much stronger, but at the end of the day, what made this class special was the amount of depth and pro-ready talent it possessed from top to bottom.
Whether it was Lynn Williams moving to Gotham or Diana Ordonez moving closer to her home country after a historic rookie season where she reached double-digit goals, the league is going to look a lot different after Jan. 12. Here are the night’s biggest winners and losers:
NWSL Draft winners
Kansas City Current
Where can this club go wrong at the moment? For right now, it seems like they can’t. When many thought the Current were going to take a back seat during the draft night after adding Debinha to the roster just a few days prior, Kansas City ran with the theme it has all offseason — aggression. Matt Potter and KC let go of USWNT attacker Williams, but in exchange, the Current selected the 2022 MAC Hermann Trophy Winner, Michelle Cooper with the second overall pick.
It was clear that Kansas City had a plan going into draft night, backing up its willingness to get back to the NWSL Championship for the second year in a row. With eight selections, Potter and company filled nearly every necessary role, adding depth to a squad that is already littered with talent.
From accumulating two attack-minded players in the first round to picking two goalkeepers, and three defenders later on, the Current made sure that this club is not only equipped for this upcoming campaign, but the years going forward. Adrianna Franch could potentially be departing the club for the World Cup in the summer, so Kansas City added two promising young goalkeepers including Jordan Silkowitz in the second round to help fill the role in her absence. One of the Current’s core pieces in the defense, Kristen Edmonds took her talents to Gotham after the conclusion of last season.
West Virginia center-back Gabrielle Robinson covers up that hole for a team that relied on a strong back-three during its historic run at the end of last season. Right from the get-go when this franchise took the pitch in the NWSL, there was an ambition to be different, and this draft embodies that. The front office and the entire group at the Current simply could not have done it better, hitting a home run that may put them as the favorites as the season nears closer.
Once Amanda Cromwell and many of her staff members were dismissed from their coaching roles at the Pride, the future, and direction of the club was extremely unclear. Seb Hines has come in, and in a blink of an eye restored stability. During the middle of last season, Hines took the helm, leading Orlando in 15 games, losing just five, and playing a spoiler role, overperforming in many eyes after the team was without Marta for nearly the entire campaign.
Hines and the Pride came into this draft seeking top-level talent. The club lost out on Debinha but was able to extend Brazilian legend Marta to a multi-year contract, providing them with a player and a culture to begin building around. Having dealt away the No. 2 overall pick to Gotham just a few days before draft night in a four-team deal, the Pride still owned the No. 3 selection.
With that, Orlando chose the most pro-ready defender that this season’s draft had to offer —Emily Madril from Florida State University. Madril shined in her final two seasons as a Seminole, becoming a force in one of the nation’s most stable backlines. Having allowed the second most goals in the NWSL last season, Madril will be a welcome sight to both Hines, and goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
The Pride were not done there, selecting five more times during the night, adding TCU standout Messiah Bright, and coming up with the biggest steal of the draft, acquiring 2022 All-Pac 12 first-team forward Summer Yates in the fourth round. Some may have questioned where Orlando was going just a few months ago, but after this draft, it is clear the future of this club is brighter than many may think.