The NWSL is heading into its most competitive season yet with two ambitious new expansion teams joining the league. And before a ball is even kicked in 2022, the competition is already ramping up this offseason when it comes to player signings.
The last few weeks and days have been busy with a number of star players making moves and squad shakeups happening around the league. Now just two days after the Expansion Draft, all 12 teams will be jockeying for position to acquire young talent through the NWSL Draft.
As is customary, expansion sides San Diego Wave FC and Angel City FC will get the first crack at picking players. Last year’s champions Washington Spirit don’t have a pick until the end of the third round, so it may not be as busy on Saturday, but after the way last season finished, it is the rest of the league’s responsibility to catch up.
How to watch the NWSL Draft
The 2022 NWSL Draft will be televised by CBS Sports Network which is available to stream on fuboTV. New users can sign up for fuboTV with a free 7-day trial.
NWSL Draft rules
The draft will be conducted as a standard four-round draft, with a few tweaks regarding the pair of expansion teams:
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Several picks have already been traded, including two of the top three picks: Racing Louisville has Angel City FC’s first round pick (No. 2 overall) from the trade involving Christen Press and NC Courage has Kansas City Current’s first round pick (No. 3 overall) from the trade involving Sam Mewis.
NWSL Draft order
The full NWSL four-round draft order follows below. Two additional picks were added for the expansion teams at the end of the second round (noted with an *) to make for 50 overall picks. (Angel City traded that pick to Houston Dash which in turn traded it to Racing Louisville FC.)
NWSL Draft prospects & top talents
Nearly 200 players have registered for the draft hoping to be one of the 50 picks at the event. The college ranks were bursting with talent this past season, but it’s not as top-heavy as in recent years. Nonetheless, there is an upper echelon, with the following players likely to go early in the draft.
Jaelin Howell (MF, Florida State)
All the buzz has Howell going first overall to San Diego Wave, having proven her worth over a number of years at one of the best teams in the NCAA. Howell made three College Cups over her four years, won a MAC Hermann Trophy (and could win another), and has senior USWNT experience. A natural No. 8, one would be hard-pressed to find a more experienced and battle-tested player in this entire draft.
Naomi Girma (DF, Stanford)
Unanimously the top defender in the draft, Girma was injured last year and chose to stay in college for another season at one of the country’s most vaunted programs. Stanford’s season was somewhat of a disappointment, but her talent is undeniable, finishing as a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist two years in a row as a defender, an impressive feather in the cap.
Mia Fishel (FW, UCLA)
A two-time All American at UCLA, Fishel is only a junior but took the opportunity to leave early with a chance to go high in the draft. She scored 36 times in 59 matches across her three seasons at UCLA. The payoff for that performance was an October 2020 callup into senior USWNT camp, and being named a finalist for the 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year award.
Claudia Dickey (GK, North Carolina)
We are entering sleeper territory, and Dickey is the top goalkeeper in the draft. Goalkeepers aren’t quite as prioritized in the draft as the outfield positions, but Dickey is a veteran with USWNT buzz (although the position is quite logjammed at the moment). She had fabulous numbers at UNC, sporting a 75.5 percent save percentage and 131.5 mins/goal conceded mark in her senior season.
Gi DeMarco (MF, Wake Forest)
One of the pure talents in the draft, DeMarco was a fixture for Wake Forest and provides a versatility that is difficult to find. What keeps DeMarco down the list is primarily her injury history, but a classic No. 8 who can play as a No. 6, DeMarco has calm ball control abilities and fabulous field vision. She’s not a flashy player, preferring to do the dirty work in midfield for a possession-oriented style of play, but she will pop up on the scoresheet every so often.
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