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Catching up on Seattle Reign’s offseason roster changes

Eight players out, eight players in.

Last Updated
7 min read
Megan Rapinoe embraces Rose Lavelle after the end of the 2023 NWSL Championship game.
Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

Wednesday marked the day when NWSL teams needed to make roster decisions to be compliant ahead of the start of the regular season this weekend. Seattle Reign FC made two more signings to complete their class of 2024, which features eight new faces to replace eight departing players. While not the largest amount of turnover the team has experienced, the number of big names departing has undoubtedly made fans anxious to know how the team will replace their contributions.

We’ll do our best to get you up to speed after a busy off-season, since there are a lot of new names to get familiar with if you haven’t been paying close attention! They’re not all direct like-for-like changes, but there are some overarching themes with how the club has gone about filling holes both to be competitive this year and to build for the future. I’ve paired departing players with their most clear replacements where it makes sense to do so. 

OUT: Megan Rapinoe (retired) – A few sentences can’t do justice to Rapinoe’s contributions to the club during her 11 years in Seattle. For many seasons, Rapinoe’s health and well-being were the Reign’s health and well-being. In recent years they learned to adapt and play without her, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to replace her creativity, flair and willingness to just try shit, let alone her off-the-pitch presence around the team. To do that might require multiple players to carry forward various aspects of what Pinoe brought to the team.

IN: Ji So-Yun (transfer from Suwon FC, two-year contract) – although not a like-for-like replacement for Rapinoe, Ji comes with a similarly impressive club and national team pedigree, having spent the better part of a decade as the attacking fulcrum of a very successful Chelsea side, scoring 68 goals in over 200 appearances and helping the team win six league titles, six cups and one community shield, before returning home to help grow the WK League in South Korea in 2022. She has also scored 70 goals in 156 appearances for the South Korean national team. Now 33, Ji might be out of her peak years, but she still shows flashes of brilliance with her ball control and placement.

OUT: Rose Lavelle (free agency, signed with Gotham FC) – on paper, losing one of the most creative attacking mids in the league would seem to be a devastating blow to a team with title ambitions. But the reality is Lavelle barely played for the Reign in 2023 due to a combination of national team duty and injuries which have plagued her throughout her professional career. She was a key player when healthy, but the Reign spent much of the year needing to come up with stopgap solutions in midfield to compensate for her absence since they didn’t have a like-for-like replacement available. In 2024, they’ll be aiming to replace some of that creativity through Ji, while spreading the responsibility around more and preparing for the future through some young signings.

IN: Sam Meza (first-round draft pick, one year contract + option) – Meza’s not likely to be a day-one starter, but she’s going to be a player to keep an eye on. She spent her collegiate career at UNC as a creative playmaker, showing impressive two-way play in midfield that drew plaudits from both her own coaches and opponents and has been a regular in the US youth national team system.

OUT: Emily Sonnett (free agency, signed with Gotham FC) – when the Reign traded for Sonnett ahead of the 2023 season, a lot of people were scratching their heads wondering how the Reign intended to use her, and even more questions were raised when Laura Harvey indicated her intent to put the US national team defender into the midfield. After a shaky start in the role, Sonnett turned out to be a major reason the Reign made a run to the NWSL final, putting in solid performances throughout the season at defensive mid. Her departure created perhaps the biggest hole for the club to fill this off-season, at least in terms of 2023 contributions.

IN: Angharad James (transfer from Tottenham Hotspur, two year contract) – The 29-year-old Welsh international returns to the NWSL after two seasons in the Women’s Super League and is expected to step into the holding midfield role. Like her Welsh counterpart Jess Fishlock, James isn’t afraid to put in a crunching tackle and likes to break defensive lines with aggressive forward passes. She likely won’t end up on the score sheet too often, but if she’s doing her job as expected, her opponents won’t end up on there either.

OUT: Angelina (free agency, signed with Orlando Pride) – the Brazilian midfielder spent three years with the Reign, though she missed large portions of the 2022 and 2023 seasons with an ACL injury suffered while on international duty. Although Angelina was a restricted free agent, meaning the Reign could have matched Orlando’s contract offer, the timing likely would have required the Reign to make other difficult decisions surrounding the expansion draft, and they ultimately decided to let her go. In Orlando, Angelina joins several Brazil national teammates, as well as former Reign players Celia, Megan Montefusco and Ally Watt.

IN: Emeri Adames (U-18 signing, three-year contract) – the club’s first signing via the U-18 player mechanism, Adames is a highly rated youth player from Texas who had committed to the University of North Carolina before opting to go pro with the Reign. She has earned a plethora of youth accolades and has been involved in the US youth national team system. The club is very high on her prospects.

OUT: Sam Hiatt (trade to Gotham FC) – the local centerback fell out of favor after a match to forget in the Challenge Cup semifinal, losing her spot in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season. Whatever the exact circumstances and issues, a fresh start might have been best for all parties, and so Hiatt heads to the opposite coast.

IN: Julia Lester (trade from Louisville via Gotham FC, one-year contract) – in perhaps the most like-for-like move of the off-season, the Reign acquired Lester as part of the same trade that sent Hiatt to Gotham. Lester played two seasons at Louisville, making 43 appearances in all competitions, and prior to that played for two years at Apollon Ladies FC in Cyprus, where she participated in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Lester can play anywhere across the backline.

OUT: Alyssa Malonson (expansion draft to Bay FC) – the first pick of the expansion draft, Malonson moved to the Bay Area in what appears to have been a pre-planned move which was followed up by a draft pick and allocation money swap. Primarily a defensive backup in her two seasons with the Reign, Malonson had a very productive loan to Nordsjælland in Denmark but had yet to break through in Seattle.

IN: Lily Woodham (transfer from Reading FC, two-year contract) – the third Welsh international to join the Reign, Woodham is only 23 but already has seven seasons of professional play under her belt, as well as the leadership experience of serving as Reading’s captain this season.  She’ll be in fierce competition for fullback minutes and is likely to still have further room to develop and improve her game.

OUT: Elyse Bennett (expansion draft to Utah Royals, traded on to SD Wave) – Bennett goes to her third team in three seasons, seemingly the odd one out and willing to make a move when the Reign needed to decide their expansion draft strategy. She made 22 regular-season and playoff appearances for the Reign and scored two goals, as well as playing in all seven Challenge Cup matches and adding one more goal. Though she didn’t end up on the scoresheet as often as would have been ideal, her tenaciousness often forced defenders into making tough decisions, perhaps best exemplified by Gotham goalkeeper Mandy Haught receiving a red card for handling the ball outside of her box at the end of the NWSL Championship game as Bennett charged in to challenge for what could have been the equalizing goal.

IN: McKenzie Weinert (transfer from Melbourne Victory, one-year contract) – Weinert briefly signed with the Reign as a national team replacement player in 2023, making two regular-season substitute appearances and starting one Challenge Cup game before heading to Australia after her short-term contract ended. The former UW Husky scored five goals in 17 appearances for Melbourne, including a brace in her final match for the club.

OUT: Marley Canales (waived) – the 2022 draft pick made 10 appearances for the Reign in all competitions, primarily in the 2023 Challenge Cup, where she started three matches. She was a non-roster invitee on San Diego Wave’s preseason roster this year but remains unsigned as of now.

IN: Maddie Mercado (second-round draft pick, one-year contract) – Mercado earned the final spot on the roster, with her signing announced just before the roster deadline on Wednesday. She can play as either a forward or, more preferentially, as an attacking midfielder. Given the team’s midfield depth, Mercado is not likely to see a lot of minutes in her rookie year but could see some time as a change-of-pace sub, particularly if the Reign use formations with additional midfielders like they tested against the University of Washington.


OUT: Ljupčo “Raki” Kmetovski (free agency, signed by KC Current) – the long-time Reign goalkeeper coach departed in this off-season. In KC, he reunites with Vlatko Andonovski, who first brought him to the United States as part of the Reign staff in 2019.

IN: Lloyd Yaxley (free agent from KC Current) – this wasn’t exactly a trade, but it might as well have been one. With the departure of Raki, the Reign quickly moved to acquire Yaxley, who formerly held the role in Kansas City. He is a widely respected goalkeeper coach with many years of NWSL experience in both Orlando and Kansas City.

OUT: Pringle the Lion (sent to a farm upstate) – the impending end of OL Groupe ownership of the Reign meant the retirement of the lion mascot, an animal that never made any sense in Seattle, and one which is already over-represented around the league. Perhaps in 20 years, all that lion merchandise will be considered a vintage collectible.

IN: The Queen (returned from exile) – in Pringle’s place, the Queen has returned to the throne with a golden glow-up. She finally gets an opportunity to look out upon her expanded kingdom at Lumen Field. In retrospect, her departure at the beginning of 2020 probably should have been a warning to us all that things were about to get weird.