Hope Solo is in. Megan Klingenberg is out. The list of 55 subsidized players for the 2013 NWSL season was announced late Wednesday and by Friday we should know which players are going where. All of the most talked about U.S. players wound up on the list, including all 18 of the 2012 Olympic gold medalists.
The list was supposed to be 56 players but Klingenberg was a late scratch after electing to play in Sweden. That will leave one of the eight teams short a U.S. player. It is not known if a 56th player will be added or how, if at all, the team winding up short will be compensated.
Players will now be distributed to the eight clubs. An announcement about who will play where is expected Friday.
Here are 10 things to ponder now that we know who the subsidized players are going to be:
U.S. team in the fold: Considering this has been a U.S. Soccer initiative from the time the league was announced just prior to Thanksgiving, the vibe from the players during their recent run of games was decidedly unenthusiastic. Look for that to change now that they have committed to the league and are about to have their teams revealed. The season is about three months away from starting so there is plenty of work to be done for teams and players to develop relationships with their communities.
The old guard soldiers on: The idea behind subsidizing players is, at least in part, a way to build the team ahead of the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. To that end there was some doubt whether veterans like Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx, and Heather Mitts would be part of the group. All of them made it and barring a snag or injury they will be part of a small group to participate in all three seasons of WUSA and WPS plus the first season of NWSL.
Most surprising U.S. additions: Keelin Winters is making major inroads with the national team and is less a surprise than a refreshing breath of youth in the group. Jill Loyden will be allocated. The goalkeeper was set to sit out the 2012 WPS season (which was eventually cancelled) after spending 2011 at magicJack and souring on WPS. Olympian Amy LePeilbet is on the list although a knee injury could delay the start of her season. And Ali Krieger is a welcome addition that was widely speculated after she bid auf wiedersehen to her German club Frankfurt FC. Ashlyn Harris is back as well. The last act in a U.S. pro league was Harris stopping Laura del Rio’s penalty kick to secure the 2011 WPS Championship for the Flash.
Most surprising players not on the list: There was talk that Christen Press was headed home from Europe but it appears she will be staying overseas at least one more season. Klingenberg was obviously a surprise since she left the list one player short. Yael Averbuch said late last year she would welcome playing in 2014 after her Goteborg FC contract expires. On the Canadian side, Melissa Tancredi is completing a chiropractic program in St Louis and has designs on playing in 2014.
Who will wind up where? Since this format was announced most of the conversation has centered around more players preferring to play in Portland or Seattle than there would be spots available. Abby Wambach, Christine Sinclair, and Megan Rapinoe all have some ties to Portland while Solo, Alex Morgan, and Sydney Leroux all have some semblance of ties in Seattle. Others would surely welcome a chance to play in the most soccer-centric corner of the country. So will the allocator stack the Pacific Northwest clubs? Or might Wambach be sent home to Rochester where she helped draw tremendous crowds as a visiting player after the 2011 World Cup?
Rampone has already been through the process two times having been allocated to the New York Power (WUSA) and Sky Blue FC (WPS). Will she return home to New Jersey and possibly team up with Carli Lloyd or wind up anchoring the defense somewhere else? Another of the old “Jersey Girls” that played for Sky Blue, Heather O’Reilly, bolted the team to sign with the Breakers to be closer to her husband. O’Reilly never played a WPS game for the Breakers because the league folded but she did train with the club’s WPSL Elite side briefly and played a match before taking off for the Olympics.
How about trades? Allocated players can only be traded in a ‘country-for-country’ scenario, one source revealed. A Canadian allocated player can only be traded for another Canadian allocated player, but a Mexican player can’t be traded for a U.S. player. So if a team get’s Abby Wambach, it won’t be able to swap her for Christine Sinclair, for example.
What about the Mexicans? Many of us will have homework to do on the Mexican allocations, but some of the names should be familiar. Veronica Perez, Maribel Dominguez, and Monica Ocampo all have professional experience in the US. And Teresa Noyola won the Hermann Trophy Award in 2011 and was drafted by the Flash ahead of the ill-fated 2012 WPS season. Alina Garciamendez, just graduated from Stanford, should be a rock in defense for the team she lands on. Mexico stands to benefit the most from NWSL so it is a safe bet we will become familiar with most of their allocated players sooner than later.
Roster sizes? 20 players. So with a $200,000 budget (the number being used publicly by several owners), that leaves 13 players to be paid (14 for the team not getting a third U.S. player). That leaves an average of $15,385 per player — and there are a lot of good players not on national teams.
How about other internationals? Make no mistake, this league will be heavily based off of U.S. players. Two international players are allowed per team, but as the rule was explained to us, that would INCLUDE Canadian and Mexican players who were not allocated. So, for example, if Tancredi changed her mind and wanted to play in 2013, she would count as an international player.
How did (does) the process of selecting teams work? Much like WPS, players wrote down their top choices for where they would like to play, as did teams. A third party will (and likely already has) matched up the players to teams. Players, from what we are told, were asked to write their top four choices in addition to one team they did not want to play for, an interesting additional twist from the WPS allocation. For the U.S. national team, NWSL teams ranked 1-24 their order of player preferences. Free agency is coming soon…really soon. And the draft is Jan. 18.
How will goalkeepers affect the process? Eight goalkeepers are on the list. The U.S. has four and Canada and Mexico two each. The means in theory, all eight teams will know their starting keeper by Friday. Cecilia Santiago and Pamela Tajoner were the Mexican keepers at the 2011 World Cup (only Santiago played) but NWSL teams will figure to want one of the other six. Will the teams that wind up with Santiago and Tajoner be compensated with higher ranked field players?
After a faux announcement in August and a harder but still vague announcement in November, the NWSL teams are finally about to have some players to promote. No one seems to know exactly how this process will play out but there not a women’s soccer fan in this country that is not waiting with bated breath.
Here’s how one fan (me) thinks the 23 U.S. players could fall. Note that this is pure speculation…
Boston Breakers: Heather O’Reilly, Keelin Winters, Lauren Cheney: Winters and Cheney are old Breakers and O’Reilly was on her way to being one when WPS went under.
Chicago Red Stars: Amy LePeilbet, Shannon Boxx, Jill Loyden: Loyden was a budding “Red” star when the team dropped to the W-League and Boxx played her college soccer at Notre Dame.
FC Kansas City: Amy Rodriguez, Becky Sauerbrunn, Heather Mitts: Rodriguez and Mitts would be excellent marketing tools for a brand new franchise in a city with no ties to any specific players.
Portland: Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara: Everyone expects Sinclair to wind up here and if Thorns FC get Rapinoe as well they will automatically be a drawing card for more than just playing in soccer-mad Portland.
Seattle: Hope Solo, Sydney Leroux, open spot: The presence of Solo and Leroux, both excellent players able to give the club high exposure, make the Reign the perfect team to lose the spot.
Sky Blue FC: Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath, Christie Rampone: Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc has ties to Rutgers which makes her a suitable addition to three players with ties to the area.
Washington Spirit: Ali Krieger, Lori Lindsey, Nicole Barnhart: A decidedly older and defensive group would put the Spirit behind the 8-ball but likely land the some of the top Canadian and Mexican attacking talent.
Western New York Flash: Abby Wambach, Ashlyn Harris, Rachel Buehler: A Wambach homecoming could help fill Sahlen’s Stadium which figures to be one of biggest venues in NWSL.
Jeff Kassouf also contributed to this report.
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