The first major event of the 2024 NWSL season – the NWSL Draft – concluded on Friday night, and Seattle Reign FC walked away with three players who have the potential to provide crucial depth for the club.
The Reign went into the evening with the 27th and 43rd overall picks in the draft. Seattle made a trade with Chicago in the second round, sending $125,000 in allocation money to the Red Stars in exchange for the 17th overall pick.
- With that newly-acquired pick, Seattle selected midfielder Sam Meza from the University of North Carolina.
- With the 27th pick, Seattle selected forward/midfielder Maddie Mercado from the University of Notre Dame.
- With the 43rd pick, Seattle selected forward/midfielder/defender Makena Carr from Saint Mary's.
Speaking with reporters after the draft, head coach Laura Harvey and general manager Lesle Gallimore confirmed they got all three players they really wanted – and all three filled important depth needs for the squad.
Sam Meza, Midfielder, University of North Carolina
Harvey and Gallimore both talked about the impetus to make the trade with Chicago to move up to the 17th overall because of the fact that Meza was still available, as both said they had thought she would have been off the board.
Meza made 72 total appearances for UNC, with 71 of them being starts, and scored seven goals and claimed 10 assists. She was named a third-team All American in 2022 and made the second-team ACC in 2023. Playing a little deeper in the midfield, Meza is comfortable receiving passes with her back to opponents – and turning and creating for her teammates or dribbling out of pressure.
"Sam is the reason we all pay money to watch soccer. Her creativity and skill set separate herself from other elite players," said University of North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance.
As with any NWSL Draft tradition, here's a mixtape of what Sam Meza does on the field.
While Meza has played for the United States U-17 and U-20 teams – getting coached by Harvey with the U-20s – in a Carolina People profile, she said she wants her platform as an athlete to inspire other Latinas, like soon-to-be teammate Sofia Huerta. “I hope I can inspire young Mexican girls to go for what they want, and it doesn’t have to be in sports. The biggest thing for me is being an advocate for little Mexican girls. I hope that they look at me and see themselves in me and see that they could strive for whatever they want to achieve,” said Meza.
And here's a bonus video where you get to know a little bit about Sam Meza.
Maddie Mercado, Forward/Midfielder, University of Notre Dame
Mercado made 92 appearances with 62 starts for Notre Dame, scoring 26 goals and claiming 12 assists. Here are two of those goals, both from distance.
Here's what Top Drawer Soccer had to say about Mercado: "With better finishing [by her teammates] on chances she created, Mercado would have had an even better statistical season than her nine goals and two assists. As a left-footed long-range shooting specialist with the stats to back it up, the San Diego Surf graduate has caught the eye of scouts over the last few seasons as someone who can create something from nothing."
Makena Carr, Forward/Midfielder/Defender, Saint Mary's
Carr played her 2023 season at Saint Mary's, playing/starting in 15 matches as a left back after transferring from the University of Washington. At Washington, Carr played in more attacking roles in 39 matches, with 10 starts as various injuries limited her time on the field.
Hailing from Newcastle, Washington, Carr is set to be the latest member of Seattle's gang of locals – joining Sam Hiatt, Nikki Stanton, and Olivia Van der Jagt. Carr will also reunite with now-general manager Gallimore, who coached her at the University of Washington.
“Makena is a handful to defend against, has a great soccer brain, and now that durability piece of competing day in and day out at this level is what needs [to] click in for Makena; it’s all a part of the soccer maturing process that players go through at this level,” said Gallimore in a 2018 profile on Carr.
Also in the post-draft conference call, Harvey and Gallimore mentioned that there were still other potential roster moves for the club to make without showing their cards. Gallimore did say, "Coming soon," when asked by Seattle Times' Jayda Evans about the status of midfielder Nikki Stanton and forward Tziarra King. Gallimore hinted at additional plays beyond re-signing their remaining free agents.
While Reign fans await the news of the sale and ownership change being finalized, and any other players coming to Seattle, we can at least welcome these three players to the club and to the city this preseason – and look forward to hopefully seeing all three of them put on the Seattle Reign jersey.
Welcome to Seattle, Sam, Maddie, and Makena!