Today the league revealed the rules for Friday's expansion draft to fill the Houston Dash roster. While expansion drafts are never fun for the existing teams, the Reign aren't as at risk as we initially feared. With the league's previous announcement that there would be US players exposed in the draft, the initial concern was that teams with 4 US subsidized players (currently the Reign and FC Kansas City) would effectively be forced to part with one, which for the Reign would mean the likely loss of Stephanie Cox.
Instead, the league is requiring that any team with more than 2 US allocated players must expose at least one. That includes every existing team except Western New York (who have Carli Lloyd and and Abby Wambach as their US allocation). That means there should be 7 US players exposed in the draft. And since the Dash will be limited to picking 2 US players, I suspect that they may look elsewhere for them. The protected lists will be revealed tomorrow, but a rough guess at the available US players would be Klingenberg, LePeilbet, Sauerbrunn, Buehler, Cox, Loyden, and Harris. That's a very defense-heavy list (as you'd expect, given that the attacking players tend to be the most valuable) and I'm not sure Cox is in the top two coming off of a year off. But it's close. I'd give her maybe a 40% chance to be taken at this point.
Besides the US player situation, the rules are pretty straightforward. Playoff teams can protect 9 players initially. Non-playoff teams can protect 10. International players and loanees must be protected. If a team loses a US allocated player, they're done for the draft. Otherwise, the Dash can take two players, with the team able to protect another player after the first is taken. To tide you over until tomorrow, my guess at the 10 in an initial Reign protected list would be (with a * indicating players that must be protected):
- Kim Little (*)
- Jess Fishlock (*)
- Bev Goebel (*)
- Megan Rapinoe
- Sydney Leroux
- Hope Solo
- Keelin Winters
- Lauren Barnes
- Elli Reed
- Kate Deines
That leaves exposed Nogueira, Foxhoven, Moscato, Dallstream, and Romero, plus Cox as a US player, whatever player rights they have (like Alina Garciamendez), unsigned discovery players, and possibly some other players I don't have the contract status for offhand (like Kristen Meier). But my bet at this point would be that we lose two of the first five players in that list. Something like Foxhoven (then protect Romero) then Noguiera.
One remaining twist is that the Dash are only allowed to select one Mexican allocated player and one Canadian allocated player. Which makes exposing them (in our case: Moscato and Romero) slightly safer since they're effectively protected for free if the Dash take one from somewhere else. The full rules are available here.
In any case we'll know a lot more when the real protected lists come out, and won't have to wait long to pull off the band-aid on Friday and find out which player(s) we lose.