The 2020 NWSL College Draft is today, with the Washington Spirit and the rest of the league gathering in Baltimore for four rounds of picks. Before anyone even landed at BWI, Portland Thorns FC secured the first pick (which will likely be used on Stanford forward Sophia Smith) with a major trade, sending Emily Sonnett, the rights to Caitlin Foord, and two early picks to the Orlando Pride. Traditionally, draft day can be pretty wild for NWSL clubs, so don’t be surprised if some major news comes out of today’s proceedings.
This post will update as the draft goes on, so hang out with us! Scroll down past the updates for streaming info.
3:08pm: Sorry for the lack of updates, folks! The Spirit picked Kansas Jayhawks striker Katie McClure, and then moments after her press availability, NWSL president Amanda Duffy and Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler addressed the media. And then immediately after that, the Spirit were on the clock, picking UCLA center back Kaiya McCullough.
McCullough has some history with her future teammate Rose Lavelle: when Lavelle was selected in the 2017 draft, McCullough was the draft day assistant in charge of guiding her off the stage and towards media obligations.
The draft has concluded, and it was a wild one. Let’s recap:
Out - Mal Pugh, in a stunning deal
In - Ashley Sanchez, Natalie Jacobs, Averie Collins, Katie McClure, Kaiya McCullough, and Sky Blue’s 2021 1st round pick
1:33pm: The Spirit are on the clock, but have used their timeout. Richie Burke has covered more ground than anyone in the ballroom so far. Meanwhile, yours truly is about to dig into a candy bar because there’s no time to go eat. The glitz and glamour of draft day!
1:20pm: Ashley Sanchez, meet the Spirit Squadron:
12:53pm: Steve Goff of the Washington Post has reported that the player to be named later is USWNT star Mallory Pugh:
Confirmed through sources: Spirit has traded @MalPugh to Sky Blue as part of mega-deal. She was the player to be named later.— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) January 16, 2020
12:43pm: The Spirit picked up USC’s Natalie Jacobs with the #13 pick. Jacobs, who spent her first two collegiate seasons with Notre Dame, scored 26 goals and had 23 assists playing all over the field in her four NCAA seasons. The Spirit will likely look for her to be a Swiss Army Knife of sorts.
12:41pm: We’re well into the second round, with Sky Blue nabbing Kaleigh Riehl (previously touted as a possible top 3 pick) with the 11th overall pick. The Spirit are on the clock as this post goes up.
11:56am: Sanchez, for what it’s worth, is a 20-year-old attacker who left UCLA early to declare for the draft this year. She’s played for the US youth national teams up to the under-23 level, and got called up for the full USWNT senior team all the way back in 2016 (though she didn’t get a cap). First Team All-American this past year, 23 goals and 42 assists in a three-year collegiate career with the Bruins.
She’s legit, is what I’m saying.
11:41am: The Spirit selected UCLA forward Ashley Sanchez with the #4 pick. Obviously a major move to get into position to pick her. We’ll have more from Sanchez and the Spirit later today.
This could be a game-changing trade for the Spirit, especially given that it’s almost a lock that they moved one of their stars.
11:36am: Absolutely huge trade for the Spirit, who sent a player to be named later (of course) to Sky Blue FC for today’s 4th overall pick, two 2nd round picks, and Sky Blue’s 1st round pick in 2021. So obviously we’re talking about a really big-time player!
11:30am: The trades are getting wild. We’ve barely even started! No chill in the room at all today, and we haven’t even gotten to whatever the Spirit are up to:
To Chicago: Rachel Hill, Pride's 3rd round pick today, & Pride's 1st rounder in 2021, & allocation money— Jason Anderson (fka @chestrockwell14) (@JasonDCsoccer) January 16, 2020
To Orlando: #3 & #8 picks today
That's a lot!
11:20am: As expected, Portland selects Sophia Smith first overall. Chicago and Sky Blue are trading picks, as well as some allocation money...and the Red Stars have also made a trade with Portland for second round picks and allocation money for the #2 pick overall. The Thorns are on the clock again. Things are already out of control.
11:18am: Amanda Duffy has officially put Portland on the clock. Apparently there is a wild spate of trades coming already:
Multiple teams have changed draft pick order, so looks like multiple moves to make that happen. #NWSLDraft— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) January 16, 2020
It also looks like from our spot in press row that the Spirit are about to make a move:
Before the first pick, Richie Burke just wandered down to have a brief word with the Courage table, & then Tom Torres hustled some paperwork to the side of the stage. Something's happening! #CatchTheSpirit #NWSL #NWSLDraft— Jason Anderson (fka @chestrockwell14) (@JasonDCsoccer) January 16, 2020
Start time: 11:00am Eastern
Available TV: This one’s online only.
How are the Spirit’s prospects of a big day looking?: It’s gonna be tough for them to do anything close to last year’s spectacular haul, simply because they don’t have many picks. Washington has the fifth pick in both the 3rd and 4th rounds, which is to say the 23rd and 32nd overall picks. It’s not impossible to acquire a contributor with those picks, and every single draft has produced at least 3 players who got regular time picked 23rd or later.
That list includes current Spirit players Paige Nielsen (25th overall in 2016) and Meggie Dougherty Howard (29th overall in 2017). There are also playoff-caliber regulars like Emily Menges and Kristen Hamilton on the list, as well as Kailen Sheridan (one of the best goalkeepers in the league).
That said, the Spirit are probably going to make a real push to add to their set of picks. Richie Burke told those of us who made it out to Loudoun for the 4/4/4 press conference back in November, and he reiterated that plan more recently. Washington is reticent to trade any of their players to get up there, but future picks or allocation money — perhaps especially now that the ice has been broken on that front — are still available as options to get into the first two rounds.
What are you drinking?: Coffee and water, y’all.
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