It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the National Women’s Soccer League offseason! Next year, the league will welcome two expansion sides: Bay FC and Utah Royals FC. The two squads will build their rosters through free agency, trades, the college draft and the dreaded Expansion Draft.
Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming expansion drafts and what it means for the existing 12 NWSL teams.
Protected player lists
By Tuesday, December 12th, all existing NWSL teams must submit to the league a protected and unprotected list of players which will be publicly released ahead of the 15th. The lists must adhere to the following requirements:
- Teams are permitted to protect a total of nine players. All other players must be unprotected.
- A team is permitted to protect one additional player after the first expansion team selects a player from its roster.
- Unsigned unrestricted and restricted free agents are not eligible to be selected in the expansion process.
- Under-18 players are not eligible to be selected in the expansion process.
- Individuals on the Discovery List of any team are not eligible to be selected in the expansion draft.
- Players with a “no trade” clause are required to be protected by their current club.
- Teams are required to disclose to the league, along with the protected/unprotected designation, any players who a team believes will be unavailable to play by January 1, 2024, due to injury, retirement, loan, or any other reason. This information will be shared with the expansion teams.
Each existing NWSL team may lose no more than two unprotected players throughout the expansion draft. Teams are also able to trade for draft protection from the expansion teams.
Any team that fails to submit their protected/unprotected list by the deadline, will not be allowed to protect any players.
Expansion Draft process
Based on the asset selection order announced earlier this year, Bay FC will select first in the expansion draft. Picks will then alternate between the two clubs through 12 rounds, with each team selecting up to 12 players.
For each round, each expansion team will have three minutes to make its selection. The league will then verify the eligibility of the selection, confirm the approval, and publicly announce the selection.
Each expansion team may call up to two 5-minute time-outs during the draft, but may not call them in succession. The league can call time-outs of any length at any time.
The full rules and procedures document for the 2024 NWSL Expansion Draft, presented by Ally, is available here.
What happens next?
At 9 a.m. EST, a transaction moratorium is placed, which means teams can no longer trade or make changes to their roster. The moratorium lifts at 9 a.m. the 16th, the day following the Expansion Draft.
Since free agents are not required to be on protected lists prior to signing with a club, it is likely many free agent signings will be made at the conclusion of the Expansion Draft. Free agents were eligible to begin signing with new teams on November 20th.
Where to watch
The 2024 NWSL Expansion Draft, presented by Ally, will air live on CBS Sports Network with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
The “Attacking Third” women’s soccer show will also provide additional coverage and analysis during the week of the expansion draft on CBS Sports Golazo Network and across their social accounts.