Racing Louisville FC turned plenty of heads on Friday morning as many woke to the news of their expansion draft announcement, electing to obtain the rights to Women’s Super League stars, Caitlin Foord, Alanna Kennedy, as well as Tobin Heath and Christen Press.
Firstly, many of you will be wondering what even is an expansion draft. An expansion draft occurs when a new team is added to the league, in this case, Racing Louisville. To maintain a good level in the league, new National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) teams can acquire players from the teams that are already in the league.
Within the expansion draft, each of the NWSL’s nine current teams could protect eleven players, with a limit of two United States federation players. Racing Louisville FC could select a maximum of two players (or one US federation players) per team; they could only select a maximum of two United States federation players in total. Still with me? All players currently under contract, on loan, or whose NWSL rights are held by an NWSL team (e.g., draft picks, waiver claims, retired players) were eligible for selection unless included on the protected list; only unsigned players who are on an NWSL team’s discovery list were exempt.
As teams protect their best players, the expansion teams can often only choose injured, old or overpaid players. That means that most expansion teams won’t be contenders in their first few years in the league. For example, OL Reign chose not to protect Megan Rapinoe but not because she isn’t good enough but because she’s not played regularly over recent times, therefore it makes more sense to protect those who’ve been out there on the pitch doing the business.
The complicated thing about this announcement is, from what I am led to believe, those not currently based in the US are not duty-bound to turn out for Louisville. All they have done is acquire the rights should they return to the NWSL.
This could be seen as a great tactical move by Louisville, with many of the WSL stars believed to be quite happy and strongly considering a second year, this would put Louisville in a strong position to trade these stars to Angel City when they have their own expansion draft. So while it’s headline news today, things may look very different in reality. Either way, it’s really exciting that the NWSL is expanding further.
Louisville coach, Christy Holly, said after the draft, “There was a lot of decision-making that went into it, a lot of homework and research and conversations with coaches within the league, with past players, with National Team members, so we felt we had a real good insight into what each person brought.”
The full list of players drafted by the club is:
Addisyn Merrick (North Carolina Courage)
Julia Ashley (OL Reign)
Jennifer Cudjoe (Sky Blue FC)
CeCe Kizer (Houston Dash)
Katie Lund (Washington Spirit)
Alanna Kennedy (Orlando Pride)
Lauren Milliet (North Carolina Courage)
Kaleigh Reihl (Sky Blue FC)
Caitlin Foord (Orlando Pride)
Katie McClure (Washington Spirit)
Erin Simon (Houston Dash)
Michelle Betos (OL Reign)
Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns)
Christen Press (Utah Royals FC)
Racing Louisville, are the first major professional soccer team to call Kentucky home in nearly 50 years! Holly’s side will compete in the NWSL during the 2021 season, set to begin in the spring.