NWSL Draft 2021: Players, prospects and order for clubs

Emily Fox Trinity Rodman NWSL splitGetty/Goal

The 2021 National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) season is almost upon us, with the excitement to only build when the NWSL Draft takes place on Wednesday.

Previously known as the NWSL College Draft, the event will see the most talented players in the U.S. college system brought into what is arguably the best women's soccer league in the world.

The draft will include expansion team Racing Louisville for the first time as they look to bolster their roster following the headline-grabbing Expansion Draft back in November.

The Kansas City NWSL team will also feature, with the city returning to the league for the first time since 2017, when FC Kansas City ceased operations and all its player-related assets were absorbed by the Utah Royals. The Royals ceased operations in 2020, with all player-related assets transferred to a Kansas City-based ownership group.

Last year, Stanford's Sophia Smith  was chosen by the Portland Thorns as the No.1 pick, after scoring 17 goals and providing nine assists as a sophomore in 2019. She also helped Stanford win the NCAA title for the second time in three years before becoming the first teenager to ever be selected in the draft.

This year, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced huge changes to the event. The most significant of those is a change to the player eligibility rules.

ISI Photos/Bryan Byerly

Previously, players would have to declare for the draft in order to be picked. However, after the impact of coronavirus hit college sports hard in 2020, the NWSL have now announced that all senior college athletes will be eligible without the need to register.

In the past, declaring for the draft would make players ineligible for college sports. But with the college women's soccer season pushed back from the end of 2020 to spring 2021, aspiring NWSL players will have the opportunity to play their final season of college soccer and then turn their attentions towards becoming professional.

There has been some controversy surrounding the change, with any player selected in the draft to have their rights kept by that club until the start of the 2022 NWSL pre-season begins, whether they want to play in the league or not.

Nonetheless, the positive is that players will not have to choose between playing their final college season and registering for the draft, a dilemma which would likely have deterred some.

Who will be this year's top pick, then? Catarino Macario was almost everyone's undisputed prediction. The Brazilian-born forward acquired American citizenship last year and is set to become the first naturalized citizen to play for the USWNT after being cleared to represent the senior team. She has already been called up Vlatko Andonovski.

However, Macario announced last week that she would forego her final year at Stanford and turn professional, then signed for Lyon earlier this week. It's a move that deals a huge blow to not only Louisville, but the whole NWSL.

With the 21-year-old choosing to move across the Atlantic, USWNT international Emily Fox was chosen by Racing Louisville as the No.1 pick. The defender already has three caps at senior level, making her debut back in November 2018 when she was just 20 years old.

Fox has spent the last four years as part of the North Carolina Tar Heels, who reached the College Cup final in 2018 and 2019.

The next player picked was Trinity Rodman, daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who this week chose to go pro. The forward scored twice in last year's Concacaf U20 Championship final as the United States beat Mexico 4-1.

Brianna Pinto, another highly-rated young American talent, was picked third by Sky Blue FC. The 20-year-old midfielder, who was nominated for the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year award in 2019, has spent the last two years playing alongside Fox in North Carolina.

The 2021 NWSL Draft will be streamed live on the NWSL's official Twitch channel. The event will begin at 4pm PT/7pm ET on Wednesday January 13.

2021 NWSL Draft picks

Round Pick Player Position NWSL Team
Round 1 1 Emily FoxdefenderRacing Louisville
2 Trinity RodmanforwardWashington Spirit
3 Brianna PintomidfielderSky Blue
4 Kiara Pickett defenderKansas City NWSL
5 Emina EkicmidfielderRacing Louisville
6 Yazmeen Ryan midfielderPortland Thorns
7 Madison HaleyforwardChicago Red Stars
8  Tara McKeown forwardWashington Spirit
9 Viviana Villacorta midfielderOrlando Pride
10 Deanne RoseforwardNorth Carolina Courage
Round 2 11 Taylor OttomidfielderRacing Louisville
12 Sam CoffeymidfielderPortland Thorns
13 Kirsten DavisforwardRacing Louisville
14 Mikayla ColohanmidfielderOrlando Pride
15 Victoria PickettmidfielderKansas City NWSL 
16 Lucy ParkerdefenderKansas City NWSL 
17 Addie McCainmidfielderKansas City NWSL 
18 Kelsey TurnbowforwardChicago Red Stars
19 Anna HeilfertyforwardWashington Spirit
20 Alyssa MalonsondefenderNorth Carolina Courage
Round 3 21 Parker GoinsforwardRacing Louisville
22 Amirah AliforwardPortland Thorns
23 Taryn TorresmidfielderSky Blue
24 Kerry AbelloforwardOrlando Pride
25 Brianna AlgerdefenderChicago Red Stars
26 Joelle AndersonmidfielderHouston Dash
27 Makamae Gomera-StevensforwardHouston Dash
28 Jimena LopezdefenderOL Reign
29 Sydney SchneidergoalkeeperWashington Spirit
30 Myra KontedefenderNorth Carolina Courage
Round 4 31 Emily SmithdefenderRacing Louisville
32 Channing FosterforwardPortland Thorns
33 Delanie SheehandefenderSky Blue
34 Kaylie CollinsgoalkeeperOrlando Pride
35 Alissa GorzakforwardChicago Red Stars
36 Alex LoeramidfielderKansas City NWSL 
37 Hannah BetforddefenderPortland Thorns
38 Brookelynn EntzmidfielderKansas City NWSL 
39 Mariana SpeckmaierforwardWashington Spirit
40 Tess BoadeforwardSky Blue