The 2021 NWSL Draft takes place tonight starting at 4 PM PT, streaming live on Twitch. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a few things are different from past drafts. For one, the entire event will take place virtually, with teams remaining in their home markets and the league office coordinating the event from Chicago. Marisa Pilla will host the stream, along with analysts Lori Lindsey and Jen Cooper, and reporter Jordan Angeli. The stream is also expected to feature special guest appearances by stars from other sports, including the Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart, WTA tennis stars, and others.
Due to the temporary change in NCAA seasons, with many conferences shifting to a spring schedule for soccer, a special one-year waiver was granted by the NCAA allowing all division 1 players who have already played at least three years of college soccer to be selected in the draft, regardless of whether they intend to play in the spring college season or have registered. Younger players can also be drafted, but only if they are among the 49 players who registered, such as USWNT midfielder Brianna Pinto and US U-20 standout Trinity Rodman. If a player is drafted, they will have until January 22 to decide whether to report to their new NWSL team immediately, or to stay in school to play in the collegiate spring season. Either way, NWSL teams will retain the league rights to players they have drafted until the start of the 2022 pre-season.
OL Reign currently hold one pick in tonight’s draft – the 8th pick of the third round (28th overall). They sent their 2021 first-round pick to Chicago in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick (which they used to select Kelcie Hedge) and their second-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Dani Weatherholt. Their fourth-round pick was recently traded to Kansas City as part of the swap that sent Darian Jenkins to the Sunflower State in exchange for Tziarra King.
With 24 players currently signed and two more contract offers pending, the Reign don’t have much room to fit another player on their roster. However, they do need to sign at least one more goalkeeper and have fairly thin depth across the back line. Whether they address one of those needs in the draft or through outside signings (such as the expected loans from Olympique Lyonnais) remains to be seen.
And, as 2019 NWSL Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer reminds us, sometimes you don’t even need to be drafted to become an impact player.
today is the @NWSL draft! an exciting day for so many. as someone who was NOT drafted, to the girls who don’t hear their name called today, know your story is not done! you can get there if you truly desire it. grateful for all the beautiful paths to make it to your dreams— Bethany Balcer (@bethanybalcer) January 13, 2021
How to Watch
Time/Date: Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Commentators: Marisa Pilla, Lori Lindsey, Jen Cooper, Jordan Angeli