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The Racing Louisville NWSL expansion draft preview

Offseason drama but make it more dramatic

@RacingLouFC on Twitter

It’s that time again: the league is expanding with Racing Louisville, so everyone is bracing to say goodbye to their favorite players in the expansion draft. Let’s backtrack a little. The most important question first, if you’ve never gone through this before: what is an expansion draft?

Whenever the league adds a new team (or teams, maybe, 2022?), one of the mechanics they use to help the new team populate their roster is an expansion draft. The new team, in this case Louisville, will be allowed to pick up to two players from each other team’s roster, for a total of 18 picks maximum. This also, in theory, helps keep the talent spread out evenly throughout the league, particularly the dissemination of national team players (we’ll get to that in a moment).

When is the draft: Thursday, November 12, 7 PM ET

How to watch the draft: The league will stream it on their Twitch channel.

The rules:

The full rules are posted on NWSL’s website here. Here are the basics of how the draft will function and who they’re allowed the pick.

  • There will be up to 18 rounds, one for each pick Louisville can make (note on this below). They can take three minutes for each selection, which the league must approve, then publicly announce.
  • The list of available players is made up of “unprotected players.” Each team can protect, or prevent Louisville from picking, 2 USWNT allocated players, and can protect 11 players total, including those 2 USWNT players. They can also choose not to protect any USWNT players as part of their protected 11. The rules have a list of US allocated players at the end.
  • Louisville may also pick the rights to a player, even if they are not currently playing in the league.
  • Louisville can only pick 2 USWNT allocated players total, and any team who has a USWNT player taken will get $75,000 in allocation money that can be used above the team’s salary cap. If Louisville takes no USWNT players, they will get $150,000 in allocation money instead, or if they only pick 1, they will get $75,000. This money can only be used against player salaries, as opposed to general allocation money, which teams are allowed to use on non-salary costs, as noted by Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler at the 2019 college draft.

That’s the draft in a nutshell. There’s also a note very specifically added at the end of the rules that allocation money can be spent on the first pick of the 2021 college draft, strongly believed to be Catarina Macario.

We should also know who each team is protecting around November 5, since lists are due from each team on November 4. (Caveat: the league may simply hold on to this information until the actual draft day for whatever reason.) Don’t panic before then. But after the list is out, please feel free to speculate wildly and/or get mad that your favorite player wasn’t protected.

For speculation purposes, some important pieces of info:

  • Chicago is completely protected already, thanks to a trade they made with Louisville that sent Yuki Nagasato, Savannah McCaskill, the #5 2021 college draft pick, and an international roster spot for 2021 and ‘22 to Louisville. This was definitely a partial gamble on Louisville’s part considering Nagasato is currently on loan in Japan, had very strong ties to Chicago, and is currently 33.
  • Louisville has also picked up former Washington Spirit forward Cheyna Matthews from the re-entry list, as Matthews was out of contract and placed on the re-entry wire at the end of the 2020 season.

There’s also the fact that Louisville can certainly pick any available player they want, but there’s no guarantee that player will end up in Louisville, as some of them may simply elect to retire or try to go overseas instead. There’s also some tactical considerations; for example, the Orlando Pride can protect Alex Morgan and Emily Sonnett and Louisville can certainly attempt to pick either one of Ashlyn Harris or Ali Krieger, but considering the two are married and very unlikely to separate due to a trade, good luck with that. So keep context like age, ties to a club, and how settled a player is when speculating on the likelihood that Louisville will even want these players. A new team surely wants to start with a roster that wants to be there, who will be enthusiastic about playing for and promoting the club. This draft may be a signifier of just how deep Louisville’s ambitions run, and it’s always nice to see clubs in this league have serious ambition.