The NWSL expansion draft week is here. The actual draft takes place at 7 p.m. CT on Friday, Dec. 15. The final trades and transactions deadline is Tuesday morning (Dec. 12, at 8 a.m. CT). Each team’s list of protected and unprotected players is due that afternoon at 1 p.m. CT and released to the public sometime after that.
Each existing team is permitted to protect nine players, with no requirements or considerations based on position group or national team status. Teams may protect one additional player after one of their unprotected players is selected. Each team may lose no more than two players in the expansion draft. Bay FC and Utah Royals FC may select up to 12 players.
There are two key differences between this draft versus the 2021 draft. In 2021 Angel City FC and the San Diego Wave were limited to “no more than one (1) Player from each position group,” and, “Each Expansion Team may select one (1) Player or U.S. Allocated Player from each Team, for a total of nine (9) selections.”
Those rules do not apply this time so a drafting team could take two players from one team in any position. An existing team can still only lose two players, but they could both go to one expansion team.
Rule changes complicate the expansion draft
The Athletic as usual did a good article on the issue but to break it down here, the change allowing teams to take two players from one team caught team front offices by surprise. They expected the previous rules to be in play and started negotiating protection deals with the expansion teams. Once everyone realized the issue, protection deals started a mad inflation in price. The Athletic stated the cost of protection went up to $250,000 in some cases over the last few days. The KC Soccer Journal has been told teams have been asked for packages of multiple players and first-round picks.
The Orlando Pride made trades with both teams and can now sit out the expansion draft. Kansas City and Racing Louisville have protection from Bay FC but not Utah while North Carolina and San Diego have protection from Utah but not Bay FC. So it would appear that unless other deals are happening, all the remaining teams will still lose two players. All the rest of the teams will also likely lose two players unless deals are finished by Tuesday morning.
- 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.
KC Current roster and status
After the season the NWSL teams announced their offseason roster updates. The Current waived their rights to midfielders Chardonnay Curran and Rylan Childers, and defenders Jenna Winebrenner and Croix Soto.
Defender Izzy Rodriguez is out of contract but received a new offer from Kansas City. Rodriguez does not qualify for free agency.
Midfielders Sam Mewis and Desiree Scott and defender Mallory Weber are Free Agents and defender Addisyn Merrick and goalkeeper Cassie Miller are Restricted Free Agents. Merrick and Miller can negotiate with another NWSL team, but the Current would have the right to match any offer.
The Current traded Alex Loera to Bay City for draft protection and $175,000 of allocation funds. Utah can still take two players from Kansas City unless a deal is made today.
Kansas City Current Roster:
Goalkeepers (2): AD Franch, Jordan Silkowitz
Defenders (7): Lauren, Elizabeth Ball, Stine Ballisager Pedersen, Kate Del Fava, Hanna Glas, Hailie Mace, Gabrielle Robinson
Midfielders (6): Debinha, Vanessa DiBernardo, Morgan Gautrat, Cece Kizer, Lo’eau LaBonta, Claire Lavogez
Forwards (5): Michelle Cooper, Kristen Hamilton, Mimmi Larsson, Alex Pfeiffer, Alexa Spaanstra
Players under contract would have to be protected plus Rodriguez. Pfeiffer does not need to protected. Her contract does not take effect until January and she would be covered by the Under-18 restriction as well.
If a player has a no-trade clause in their contract they must be protected. The NWSL does not reveal that info so we will treat them as non-existent. They are not as prevalent as in some other leagues.
I present three protection lists:
The totally unrealistic, all-heart, love to have them on the team:
Alex Loera – I would not have traded her. So time travel needed for this.
LaBonta – All heart celly queen!
Hamilton – Gives everything on the field and you have to love that effort.
Rodriguez – Young defender who can attack. What’s not to love?
Lavogez – So much joy and love for the game and the best smiles when the team scores.
Mace – Passion but more intense.
Kizer – Hometown hero and drummer for the Chiefs.
Franch – AD can fire up a crowd and her team.
Del Fava – Plays her heart out.
Protect all the youth: – mostly the younger players that would have the longest future to grow into Kansas City. Fairly self-explanatory.
My real and final protection list and why:
Protect the attacking youth.
Cooper – She grew throughout the year and will benefit from a more consistent team where she might get to play centrally more.
Spaanstra – Didn’t see much time until late in the season and then she really came on and impressed, looks ready to breakout
The heart of the midfield.
Debinha – Have to protect the most talented player on the team and maybe in the whole league.
LaBonta – All heart and passion for the game fuels the team and the fans.
Ball – Need defense and she is proven to be a solid centerback.
Robinson – Same but younger and might slide into a d-mid role,
Up to this point, it has been easy.
Kizer – Goal scorer, forward or mid, and local roots. KC needs Cece Kizer.
Mace – Wingback or wing, plays hard and can torch outside backs in a more terminator-like fashion.
Now the decisions are really hard. Who is left to choose from?
Hamilton? We know she gives everything on the field and is a fan favorite (as well as one of mine).
Del Fava? Such a critical part of the 2022 success.
Rodriguez? Not under contract but she is a good young left-back that also contributes going forward
Lauren and Ballisager? Grouping them together. Both came after the World Cup. Stine looked good and Lauren did not have a lot of time to prove herself. There may be pressure to protect them since they are World Cup vets that were signed midseason.
Lavogez? She really was looking good when she was hurt in 2022 and started to get back in form as she got some playing time.
DiBernardo and Gautrat? No. Both had such potential and were great players previously but both were hurt to start the season and then were hurt again. When they were healthy the Current looked good but DiBernardo only played eleven regular season games last season and Gautrat only played five regular season games. Unsure of their health status but would be a chance to move on from free agents that did not contribute. Hope Utah takes one or both and assumes whatever their contracts may be.
Glas? No. Signed before the 2023 season but never made an appearance on the gameday roster. Was practicing at the end of the season but was not cleared to play. Unsure of status.
Franch? Top-notch keeper when she is on but the legendary AD is getting older and has been a little up and down the last two years.
Larsson? No. Mimmi is nice but was not the force they hoped for when she was signed.
Now we need to narrow it down. Without knowing if Izzy is ready to accept the contract offer or other complications like no-trade clauses, potential incoming free agents, or other personal factors. It comes down to Rodriguez, Hamilton, and Lavogez. Depending on who is taken, the midfield could open up for Lavogez or still be crowded for time.
My final list is:
Youth, experience, attacking talent, midfield, and defense are accounted for in this list. If a keeper is taken, the Current can then sign Miller and protect Sikowitz or a different player. If Laueren or Stine is taken, protect the other one.