The NWSL Expansion Draft for Racing Louisville FC saw a few surprises, most notably with the club acquiring the NWSL rights to USWNT stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press. Racing’s selections from OL Reign were defender Julia Ashley and goalkeeper Michelle Betos.
Ashley was acquired by the Reign before the 2020 season in a trade which saw Ifeoma Onomonu go to Sky Blue FC. She did not play any minutes for the Reign as she continued recovering from a long-term back injury.
“Julia is a player we believe has a bright future in the NWSL,” said OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore in a team release. “We worked hard to bring her to our club, and although injury kept her from playing any matches for us last season, we continue to expect big things from her. It was a great selection by Louisville and we believe she will prove to be an important player for them next season.”
Betos was in her second stint with the Reign, returning to the team ahead of the 2018 season. She made three appearances in all competitions in 2020 after returning from an Achilles injury she suffered early in the 2019 season.
“It was hard to hear Michelle’s name announced this evening,” said Predmore. “Michelle made a massive impact on our club both on and off the field. She’s an inspirational leader and a fantastic talent that will be missed by everybody in our organization.”
The complete list of Racing Louisville FC selections was: 1. Addisyn Merrick (defender, NC Courage); 2. Julia Ashley (defender, OL Reign); 3. Jennifer Cudjoe (midfielder, Sky Blue FC); 4. Ceci Kizer (forward, Houston Dash); 5. Katie Lund (goalkeeper, Washington Spirit); 6. Alanna Kennedy (midfielder, Orlando Pride); 7. Lauren Milliet (midfielder, NC Courage); 8. Kaleigh Riehl (defender, Sky Blue FC); 9. Caitlin Foord (midfielder, Orlando Pride)*; 10. Katie McLure (forward, Washington Spirit); 11. Erin Simon (defender, Houston Dash); 12. Michelle Betos (goalkeeper, OL Reign); 13. Tobin Heath (midfielder, Portland Thorns)*; 14. Christen Press (forward, Utah Royals)*
*denotes NWSL playing rights, but player is not currently under contract in the league
With the Expansion Draft now complete, the trade window re-opens on Friday, Nov. 13 at 9 AM ET, and the next major event on the league calendar is the college draft, which is scheduled to take place on January 13.
Original post: The Expansion Draft for new NWSL club Racing Louisville FC takes place tonight, starting at 4 PM PT on the NWSL Twitch channel. Louisville has the opportunity to add up to 16 players to their roster, with a maximum of two unprotected players chosen from each current team except Chicago, who traded Racing several star players and other assets in exchange for draft protection.
The following OL Reign players (and players for whom the Reign still control NWSL playing rights) are available for selection by Louisville:
Current roster: Morgan Andrews, Julia Ashley, Michelle Betos, Meg Brandt (College Protected), Stephanie Cox, Shirley Cruz (International), Machaela George, Madison Hammond, Sam Hiatt (College Protected), Kelcie Hedge, Celia Jimenez Delgado (International), Quinn (International), Megan Rapinoe (US Allocated), Taylor Smith, Jasmyne Spencer, Danielle Weatherholt, Rosie White (International)
Former Reign players: Mariah Bullock, Steph Catley, Kiersten Dallstream, Schuyler DeBree, Adrienne Jordan, Alyssa Kleiner, Theresa Nielsen, Morgan Proffitt, Jodie Taylor, Rumi Utsugi, Abby Wambach, Lydia Williams, Beverly Yanez
Should Megan Rapinoe be picked, no other Reign players can be selected and the team would receive $75,000 in allocation money in compensation. Any other Reign player selections would not be compensated.
There are a number of interesting names available throughout the league, including Portland’s Gabby Seiler, Celeste Boureille, Angela Salem and all three of their current goalkeepers; rising star Jennifer Cudjoe of Sky Blue FC; Washington’s Meggie Dougherty Howard; Canadian international Desiree Scott of Utah; Ally Watt of North Carolina; and Christine Nairn for Houston, among many others.
Louisville head coach Christy Holly has hinted that the team has its eyes on some international players, given that they have an extra international slot for 2021 and 2022 thanks to their trade with Chicago, as well as up to an extra $150,000 in allocation money should they not select any US allocated players in the expansion draft. He also suggested he might pick up some prospects and players with high ceilings who might feel they have something to prove.
As is custom, various websites and pundits have conducted mock drafts. Dan Lauletta of Equalizer Soccer predicts that Louisville will select Michelle Betos and Taylor Smith from the Reign. Rachael Krieger, also at Equalizer Soccer, predicts Celia Jimenez Delgado and Morgan Andrews will be selected. Chris Henderson of All White Kit thinks Racing should select Betos and Kelcie Hedge. Just Women’s Sports hosted a video discussion of the expansion draft with former Reign goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer, Carmelina Moscato, Stephanie McCaffrey and David Copeland Smith of Beast Mode Soccer. McCaffrey predicted that Louisville would select Smith and Jasmyne Spencer; Kopmeyer chose Julia Ashley and Shirley Cruz; Moscato went with Spencer and Andrews; and Copeland Smith thought Racing should pick Andrews and Cruz.
Tune in at 4 PM PT on Twitch to find out if any of these predictions are correct, and join us in the discussion thread here to discover which players OL Reign fans must bid adieu.