Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy Generator Skip to content

NWSL expansion draft makes for quiet start to OL Reign off-season

Teams are waiting to make big moves.

Last Updated
3 min read
Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

If the start of the 2023-24 NWSL off-season has felt frustratingly quiet to you, you’re not alone. Despite a number of big names available in free agency – including several who were on the Reign roster this year – most teams have been waiting to make signings because of a quirk in the rules for the upcoming expansion draft which will seed the rosters of Utah Royals and Bay FC. For the Reign, these delays are further compounded by the ongoing team sale, which will almost certainly include a rebrand and potentially further investment in training infrastructure, allocation money and support staff, similar to other recent team purchases.

Clubs that have not otherwise traded for full protection are limited to protecting only nine currently contracted players ahead of the draft, so signing a free agent at this point would mean one of those nine precious spots would have to be used on them. Instead, there’s an expectation that a flurry of signing announcements will take place in the days following the draft on Dec. 15, as teams that have reached an understanding with players will then be able to officially execute deals without fear of exposing another valuable player to the draft.

OL Reign currently have 16 players under contract for 2024, with five more players who do not qualify for free agency (goalkeepers Laurel Ivory and Maia Perez, defenders Ryanne Brown and Alyssa Malonson, and midfielder Olivia Athens) in negotiations to return. They also have five players from their 2023 roster now in free agency – Angelina and Tziarra King are restricted free agents, meaning the team has the right to match any offer made to them, while Rose Lavelle, Emily Sonnett and Nikki Stanton are unrestricted free agents.

OL Reign announce 2023 end-of-season roster moves
General Manager Lesle Gallimore has her first NWSL offseason work cut out with key players as yet unsigned.

With the growth of free agency, trades for protection this year have been much more favorable to existing teams than in the past, with expansion teams sending clubs significant amounts of allocation money for their players, along with protection from the draft. OL Reign general manager Lesle Gallimore told the press two weeks ago that the team has been looking at the possibility of trading for protection, but any such deal will need to make sense both for the teams and the players involved.

Highlights of OL Reign end of season press conference
OL Reign enter a NWSL offseason with key re-signings to make and an expansion draft around the corner.

Barring any trades in the next week, the Reign will lose two of their 16 contracted players in the expansion draft. Trades must be finalized by the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 12, and protected lists are due to the league office later that day. If the Reign lose two players in the draft and are able to re-sign their five non-free agents, they’ll have nine available roster spots to sign free agents and bring in additional talent from outside the league and via the college draft (where they hold picks 27 and 55). Currently, they also have four open international spots, with only Jordyn Huitema requiring one. Luany and Jimena Lopez, who are both on loan to teams in Spain until June 2024, would also occupy international spots and each need a roster spot when they return to the club.