Every NWSL season brings a new set of players both young and experienced that hope to make their impact on the league right out of the gate.
Every year, the NWSL introduces a new set of young stars ready to make a name for themselves in a league riddled with talent. This season is no different. As the women’s game grows, so does the NWSL, and with that, the quality throughout the league has taken a jump. In January, the league had its annual college draft.
It may not have been as top-heavy as the previous edition, but the depth through the first two rounds allowed teams to select through a mountain of elite prospects at nearly every position on the pitch. Some of these new players may not get as much opportunity as they might like, but it is what you do with the chance to develop trust that makes all the difference.
Despite the majority of the newcomers around the league coming from the draft, there are a select few exciting names with professional experience that will be plug-and-play kind of assets in 2023. It takes time for players to adapt to this league given the differing play style, but there is no question the potential to make an instant impact is there.
10 newcomers to watch throughout the 2023 NWSL season:
10. Emily Madril
The 23-year-old Idaho native out of Florida State University was the draft’s most pro-ready defender. After starting 61 of the 62 contests in which she played for the Seminoles, Madril passed up a chance to play another season collegiately and turned pro. She signed with the league in August of 2022, allowing her to have her rights transferred to the 2023 Draft.
During that time following her Florida State tenure, Madril went on loan to BK Hacken, one of the most respected and successful women’s soccer clubs in Sweden. For someone to forgo her final season in college and travel to another country to improve her skills demonstrates how dedicated Madril is to succeeding.
The central defender is a day-one starter for Seb Hines as he seeks to improve a defense that allowed the second-most goals in the league last season. Orlando lost its longest-tenured player, defender Toni Pressley, and will be looking for Madril to fill in that gap for the foreseeable future.
9. Adriana Leal da Silva
Marta will not be the only Brazilian star suiting up for the Orlando Pride this season. The 26-year-old former Corinthians forward Adriana signed with the central Florida side ahead of her appearance in the SheBelieves Cup in February for the Brazilian National Team. With the Pride missing their top-three goal scorers from last season, this was a necessary acquisition.
Brazil’s No. 11 is electric with the ball at her feet. Known for her strengths in one-on-one situations, Adriana netted 72 goals in 142 outings for the São Paulo side. That makes her the second all-time leading scorer in the club’s history. During her time with Corinthians, the forward won four Brazilian Championships including three straight before moving to the NWSL. With 42 caps dating back to 2017 with her national team, Adriana brings an abundance of experience and quality playing at the top international opponents.
Last year for Pia Sundhage, the 26-year-old scored nine goals in just 17 games for the national team including five en route to a Copa America crown. She, along with Marta, and Ally Watt among others in the Orlando frontline, will be keen on improving what was an extremely poor scoring record last season.
8. Reyna Reyes
A Mexican international, and standout star for the University of Alabama, defender Reyna Reyes is prepared to make her mark in the NWSL. Other than Madril, the 2022 SEC Defender of the Year was the best defender in January’s college draft. Reyes was selected with the fifth overall selection in the draft by the defending champion, Portland Thorns.
Despite the club’s experience at the center-back position with Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelli Hubly, and Emily Menges, Reyes is a player that can make an immediate impact. Her adaptability is quite extraordinary. She can play both as a defender and in a defensive midfield role. New Thorns head coach Mike Norris has inherited a team that not only retained nearly everyone from their championship run but added to it as well.
Reyes has already made four appearances for her national team, and two of those were against the United States in 2021. The Garland, Texas native finished her illustrious career with the Crimson Tide having started in every game in which she played. She netted 16 goals to go along with five assists in 79 outings for the SEC powerhouse. Her career included a memorable game-winning goal against Duke in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals last season. Keep an eye out for Reyes. It may take some time with a team like Portland, but she is without question a special talent.