A Deep Dive into the 2018 NWSL Draft

On January 18, Utah Royals FC will take part in its first-ever National Women’s Soccer League College Draft, marking another historic milestone for the club ahead of its inaugural season. Set to be hosted in conjunction with the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the NWSL Draft will attract hundreds of coaches and fans to the largest world-wide gathering of coaches and administrators with eyes on the next generation of talent in women’s soccer.

How does it work?

The NWSL Draft consists of four rounds with each round consisting of ten picks. The draft order is primarily built upon the team’s final ranking during the previous season. That being said, teams are allowed to trade draft picks anytime before and during the draft. For example, Utah Royals FC traded their fourth round draft pick in December to Sky Blue for NWSL veterans Kelley O’Hara and Taylor Lytle. 

When a team drafts or selects a player from the pool of eligible players, the club then receives the rights to the player although merely drafting the player does not mean a contract has been or will be offered. The team can have up to 35 members on the roster after the draft, but will then be forced to cut the roster down to 20 before the start of the NWSL season. The drafted player will then have the opportunity to train with the team, giving time for coaches to determine whether a player is to be offered a contract or released. 

Players are eligible for the draft if they have exhausted their NCAA eligibility, or players who will graduate during the 2017-2018 academic year. Over 160 eligible players have currently registered and more are expected to enter prior to the registration deadline on January, 17. After registering with the NWSL, players are then qualified to be eligible for the draft. Players who register but are not selected are then qualified to be acquired as a ‘Discovery Player’ during the 2018 season. Discovery players can then be picked up later by other teams who are interested. 
 

Players to keep an eye on

The following selection is based off of performance in the 2017 NCAA season. 

1. Andi Sullivan, Stanford (Midfielder)
It was a fairytale ending to Sullivan’s career at Stanford. The U.S. women’s national team midfielder suffered an ACL tear in the fall of 2016 which kept her out of the game for over a year. This season, she came back stronger than ever. She played for the U.S. women’s national team in a pair of wins over Switzerland and got to hoist the national championship trophy with Stanford. Sullivan’s biggest strength is her ability to stay poised on the ball in the highest of pressure situations. She is a sound decision maker who reads the game well beyond her years. Sullivan has not yet registered for the draft. 

2. Savannah McCaskill, South Carolina (Forward, Midfielder)
McCaskill led South Carolina to its first College Cup and will enter the draft as the Gamecocks only three-time All-American. She finished her career with 114 points and 17 game-winning goals. Any team who gets McCaskill will benefit from not only her ability to finish, but also her distribution and strength on the ball. The MAC Hermann Trophy finalist led the SEC with nine-assists in her senior campaign.

3. Casey Murphy, Rutgers (Goalkeeper)
Murphy had one more year left of NCAA eligibility, but has declared for the NWSL Draft. The Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year redshirted her junior season to play for the Under-20 USWNT in the Women’s World Cup, which makes her a graduating senior this year and eligible to enter the NWSL. Murphy is a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist, and two-time All-American. She stands at 6’1” and has the international experience to gear her for the competition in the NWSL. 

4. Michaela Abam, West Virginia (Forward, Midfielder, Defender)
Abam led West Virginia to the NCAA tournament and finished her career with 42 goals and 16 assists. Abam will be an asset to any team with her pace up top and ability to either hold the ball and post-up, or run at any backline testing them 1v1. Abam took the mountaineers to a 10-0 season. 

5. Rachel Corboz, Georgetown (Midfielder)
Corboz was named Big East Midfielder of the Year and finished the season with nine goals and 12 assists. The senior tabbed seven multi-point games and ranked second in the country in assists. Corboz was named a MAC Hermann semifinalist, becoming the seventh Georgetown player in the past eight years to be recognized with the honor. Corboz will adjust seamlessly to the NWSL; she’s technical, reads the game well and will compete with the best in the league in the midfield. 

6. Rebecca Quinn, Duke (Midfielder)
You might remember Quinn from the 2016 Rio Olympics where she helped the Canadian national team to a bronze medal, or maybe you are just getting to know the defensive midfielder for the Blue Devils after this season. Quinn redshirted last year due to injury, but this year she was impossible to miss with her ability to disrupt an attack and recover defensively. Quinn finished the season with three goals and four assists, three of those assists coming in the NCAA tournament.

7. Indigo Gibson, California (Defender)
Center backs don’t typically go early in the draft, but if there were a player that could go in the first round, it would be Gibson. The All-America center back played every minute for the Golden Bears this season and led Cal to a 13-6-1 record. She helped the Golden Bears to a five-streak of shutouts in Pac-12 play this season and 39 shutouts in her career. Gibson is a shutdown defender who has the size, pace and skill set to see the field as a center back in the league.

8. Imani Dorsey, Duke (Forward)
Dorsey chipped in 14 goals for the Blue Devils this season to double what she scored as a junior. The forward also added 10 assists for 38 total points in her senior campaign. After dominating the year in every possible angle, Dorsey picked up the award of USC National Scholar Athlete of the Year. Dorsey helped pace the Blue Devils attack, which ranked second nationally. Her standout season puts her on pace to make an immediate impact in the league.

9. Gabby Seiler, Florida (Forward, Midfielder, Defender)
As an All-SEC first team player for the past three years, Seiler finished her career at Florida as one of the top-ranked midfielders in the game. Seiler transferred from Georgia after the 2014 season and sat out the 2015 season due to SEC transfer rules. Come 2016, Seiler was ready to make a splash with the Gators and started every match. Her versatility will make her a huge asset to the league. Seiler can play midfielder, center or outside back. She has experience playing at all three positions and has spent some time with the youth national teams over the past few years.

10. Kathellen Sousa, UCF (Midfielder)
Sousa was an integral part of the UCF team this past season, joining the Knights for her senior year after spending time at Louisville and Monroe College prior. Sousa is a technical midfielder who is equally strong offensively as she is defensively. She reads the game well and, at 5’10”, she is a presence on the pitch. The Sao Vincente-Brazil native was named to the All-Southeast Region First Team, American Athletic Conference First Team and was named the AAC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
 

2018 College Draft Order

FIRST ROUND

  1. Washington Spirit 
  2. Boston Breakers
  3. Houston Dash 
  4. Sky Blue FC
  5. Sky Blue FC
  6. Houston Dash 
  7. Chicago Red Stars 
  8. Portland Thorns FC
  9. Portland Thorns FC
  10. North Carolina Courage 

 

SECOND ROUND

  1. Washington Spirit
  2. Houston Dash 
  3. Chicago Red Stars
  4. Utah Royals FC
  5. Sky Blue FC
  6. Washington Spirit
  7. Boston Breakers
  8. Chicago Red Stars 
  9. Chicago Red Stars
  10. North Carolina Courage 

 

THIRD ROUND

  1. Washington Spirits
  2. Boston Breakers 
  3. Orlando Pride
  4. Houston Dash
  5. Utah Royals FC
  6. Washington Spirit
  7. Chicago Red Stars
  8. Houston Dash
  9. Chicago Red Stars
  10. Houston Dash

 

FOURTH ROUND

  1. Washington Spirit
  2. Boston Breakers
  3. Houston Dash
  4. Utah Royals FC
  5. Sky Blue FC
  6. Seattle Reign FC
  7. Chicago Red Stars
  8. North Carolina Courage
  9. North Carolina Courage
  10. North Carolina Courage
     

Watch the 2018 NWSL draft live at RSL.com

Complete schedule of draft events: unitedsoccercoachesconvention.org

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