The NWSL announced on Wednesday the official rules for the 2021 Expansion Draft, which will help stock both Angel City FC and San Diego’s as-yet-unnamed NWSL expansion team, the first time in league history two teams will enter the league at the same time and take part in an expansion draft together.
The expansion draft will occur on December 16, with the nine existing teams that are participating in the expansion draft submitting their lists of players protected and unprotected to the league office by December 10. Kansas City will be exempt altogether from the expansion draft, as a condition of that club moving to that city prior to this season.
Existing teams can protect a total of nine players, including one U.S. allocated player (a U.S. international, basically). All other players will be unprotected and eligible for selection by Angel City or San Diego.
However, there are restrictions for the expansion teams beyond that. The expansion teams can each pick one player from each team participating in the draft, including one U.S. allocated player, and they are allowed to pass on picks if they choose. Angel City will, as part of their deal with Racing Louisville to acquire the NWSL rights to Christen Press, and they will not take any Louisville players in the expansion draft.
But an additional wrinkle is that the two expansion teams cannot pick players from the same team and position group, so for example, if San Diego select a Portland Thorns defender, Angel City can still select a Portland Thorns player, but they cannot pick a defender from that team.
Expansion teams can choose to either pick the U.S. allocated player, or get $150,000 in allocation money to use as they see fit. If they pick the allocated player, the team losing the player will get the $150,000 in allocation as compensation.
It’s also worth noting that teams can select players who aren’t currently in the league but whose NWSL rights are held by another team. For example, if players move abroad on a free transfer, or if they go on loan abroad, the expansion teams could conceivably take a player’s rights to “stash” and hope they return to the league at some point, or like Louisville try to flip in a trade in the future.
Finally, on an unrelated note, the league also announced that the number of international slots starting in 2022 will be five, as each team will get an additional international slot, something that’s been lobbied for within the league for years.
So, long story short, Angel City can pick up to nine players around the league, but they will take no more than eight given the Press trade agreement. Instead of getting free rein to pick whoever they choose, Angel City will need to take into account San Diego making picks alongside them and that will raise the stakes of strategizing considerably. But, we’ll see a lot more players alongside Press for Freya Coombe’s team after the draft. Can’t wait!
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