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2020 NWSL college draft: winners and losers

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Which teams did well, and which teams...didn’t?

2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Another year, another hectic NWSL college draft. Things got wild before Portland could even get out the first syllable of Sophia Smith’s name. Here’s our analysis on which teams came out better off than before, and which teams could have done better for themselves.

Winners

Sky Blue FC

What they got from the draft:
#5 Evelyne Viens (University of South Florida, FWD)
#11 Kaleigh Riehl (Penn State, DEF)
#20 Amanda McGlynn (Virginia Tech, GK)
#29 Chantelle Swaby (Rutgers, MID/DEF)
Mallory Pugh (WAS)
(Reportedly) $70,000 allocation money from Chicago

Sky Blue took the draft, put it in a salad spinner, and ripped the cord. The last-minute draft order shuffling was a result of their flipping the #2 and #3 overall picks to Chicago (who would go on to flip those picks again), gaining their #4 and #5 picks and reportedly $70,000 in allocation money above the salary cap. Then they traded that #4 pick to the Spirit and got Mallory Pugh, which, in combination with the Viens pick, makes sense for them if they insist on playing Imani Dorsey and Midge Purce as fullbacks (we’ll see). There may yet be more in the works for Sky Blue, but their haul from the draft alone it looks like they’re going to be strengthening a lot of positions on the field and are just now looking for a midfield piece to be really, truly competitive.

Portland Thorns

What they got from the draft:
#1 Sophia Smith (Stanford, FWD)
#2 Morgan Weaver (Washington State, FWD)
#25 Meaghan Nally (Georgetown, DEF)

As projected, the Thorns took Sophia Smith #1 overall in the draft. But then they also got the #2 draft, courtesy of the Chicago-Sky Blue deal, doing a secondary trade with Chicago to acquire the #2 pick and take Morgan Weaver. Allocation money changed hands as well (see below: Chicago Red Stars). Sure, the Thorns dealt away Emily Sonnett and Midge Purce and said goodbye to Andressinha, but Smith and Weaver are great pickups to put in front of Horan and Rocky Rodriguez. Parsons told media after the draft that he would consider Smith pretty ready to just jump in and start playing at the pro level, with Weaver needing some time to get there. But Smith could especially be big for the Thorns if she becomes a federation player, protecting her from the expansion draft in 2021.

Chicago Red Stars

What they got from the draft:
#15 Julia Bingham (USC, DEF)
#16 Camryn Biegalski (UW-Madison, DEF)
#19 Zoe Morse (UVA, MID/DEF)
#24 Ella Stevens (Duke, FWD/MID)
#35 Aerial Chavarin (Yale, FWD/MID/DEF)
Rachel Hill (ORL)
1st round draft pick in 2021
(Reportedly) $85k in allocation money

Updated: Chicago may have received $50k, not $25k, from Orlando.

What didn’t Chicago get from this draft? Their currency of choice this year might have been actual currency. They raked up a reported $155k in allocation money, dealt $70k of that to Sky Blue to move in the first round, and kept $85k for themselves. There’s also the fact that money doesn’t necessarily have to be just for paying players over the cap, and that it’s real money that can also be earmarked for 2021 or spent on non-salary related issues, as confirmed by Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler and current league president Amanda Duffy in a small press conference during the draft. And Utah Royals GM Stephanie Lee told media after the draft that allocation money is actually cash that changes hands, so that reported $85k is money in the bank that other teams have given the Red Stars to spend how they see fit. Combined with all the draft picks they’ve been steadily accumulating for 2021, they’re positioning themselves well for an expansion year.

Could have done better

Houston Dash

What they got in the draft:
#18 Bridgette Andrzejewski (UNC, FWD)
#22 Chloe Castaneda (UCLA, FWD)

Ahead of this draft, the Dash acquired Katie Stengel and Katie Naughton, with Naughton in particular being a fairly solid trade target. But given that they just traded away Kealia Ohai for that #18 pick, two rookies who probably won’t be able to jump in and make an immediate difference don’t feel like the trade was the best value. Andrzejewski will probably end up providing some depth after Stengel, Rachel Daly, and Sofia Huerta, but it wasn’t a big draft this year for the Dash.

Orlando Pride

What they got in the draft:
#3 Taylor Kornieck (Colorado, MID/DEF)
#7 Courtney Petersen (UVA, MID/DEF)
#10 Konya Plummer (UCF, DEF)
#14 Phoebe McClernon (UVA, DEF)
#21 Cheyenne Shorts (Denver, DEF)
#26 Abi Kim (UC Berkeley, FWD)
#30 Chelsee Washington (Bowling Green, MID)

Orlando is on this side of the draft list because even though players like Kornieck and Plummer could be extremely exciting on an individual level, within the system that Marc Skinner actually seems to want to play, he’s got a big project ahead of him with this group. Plus there’s the reported (but very unconfirmed) $25k in allocation money that Rory Dames took off of Orlando in the trade for the #3 pick, which also sent Rachel Hill to Chicago. Whatever the actual amount, Kornieck will have to pay some dividends on the field to make the trade worth it.


Overall, there are some great young players coming into the league - don’t let anyone tell you this was an especially weak draft class, because it wasn’t. Just looking at the last round, there are several players there that have good chances of becoming depth/role players for their teams, and the first round was obviously exciting as heck. This draft was also the first one to be complicated by allocation money, as well as the looming specter of double expansion in 2021. It’s an unenviably tough job for sure, and to be completely fair, sometimes you just can’t know which rookies will be boom or bust. Picks that have us scratching our heads now may end up becoming indispensable. Good luck to all the draftees who must now compete for contracts through preseason.