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Truth or dare? Racing Louisville gets first look at players available in 2020 NWSL Expansion Draft

Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer

The dares have been issued to Racing Louisville FC. And now, as the saying goes, we wait.

Eight of the nine incumbent National Women’s Soccer League teams released their lists of protected players for next week’s expansion draft (the Chicago Red Stars have immunity), and the headlines will show significant United States women’s national team talent available for the 2021 expansion side, Louisville, to select in the Nov. 12 draft (7 p.m. ET on Twitch). Reality, however, is much different.

Ashlyn Harris, Tobin Heath, Ali Krieger, Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn are all available for selection by Louisville, but all of those U.S. internationals will be 32 or older by the start of the 2021 season, and each is almost certain to never play for Louisville if selected, for a variety of reasons. Most of those U.S. players have stated their intentions of seeing out their careers with their hometown or longtime clubs. Heath and Press are currently under contract with Manchester United at least through the end of the current European season in May.

Racing Louisville FC also has incentive not to select any U.S. players. Louisville would receive a $150,000 allocation money grant for not selecting any U.S. allocated players in the expansion draft (and $75,000 for selecting only one). That money can only be used for roster transactions — including, as conspicuously and explicitly stated by the NWSL, the first pick in the 2021 NWSL College Draft. That pick is widely anticipated to be Catarina Macario, a player regarded as a generational talent and the future of the U.S. national team, after recently obtaining citizenship.

Christy Holly on becoming Louisville’s first coach, building an expansion roster, and leaving Sky Blue in 2017

Louisville can select up to 18 players in the draft, a maximum of two per team. If the expansion side selects a U.S. player, that is the only player they can select from that club, which further puts a premium on U.S. talent. Existing NWSL teams are aware of this leverage and have dared Racing Louisville to play hardball, or take a significant risk, in one way or another. For a team like Portland Thorns FC, that is by necessity. The Thorns have five U.S. allocated players and can only protect two; Lindsey Horan and new addition Crystal Dunn were obvious choices to protect as players to build the team’s future around. Sauerbrunn has said that she plans to end her career in Portland, and Heath wouldn’t be available much or, possibly, at all in 2021. That leaves Thorns goalkeeper and 2020 U.S. allocated player Adrianna Franch as the most intriguing possibility for selection by Louisville.

Press being left unprotected by Utah Royals FC is the most curious of decisions, since the Royals only have two U.S. allocated players (Kelley O’Hara being the other) and could have protected Press — undoubtedly the most talented player on the roster. But Press didn’t play for Utah at all in 2020, and the Royals are a relative mess right now. Craig Harrington was put on administrative leave midway through the NWSL Fall Series in September, and Dell Loy Hansen is selling the team and other soccer assets following allegations of sustained racist and sexist behavior that created a toxic club culture. Both of those situations remain in limbo and little has been communicated from the Royals recently regarding the status of either.

The Chicago Red Stars are the one team guaranteed to go untouched in the expansion draft. A deadline-day trade with Racing Louisville FC saw Chicago send Savannah McCaskill, Yuki Nagasato, a 2021 first-round draft pick and an international slot in 2021 and 2022 to Louisville in exchange for full protection in the expansion draft.

How will Racing Louisville FC coach Christy Holly and executive vice president of development James O’Connor play this draft? Nov. 12 will bring those answers. In the meantime, we’ll be doing our own mock draft here on and on The Equalizer Podcast.

Below is the list of protected and unprotected players as per the NWSL. Included are several long-retired names whose rights are apparently still with clubs. Your guess is as good as ours on some of those.


Full Roster Protection


Protected Players

Jane Campbell

Allysha Chapman (CAN Allocated)

Rachel Daly (International)

Shea Groom

Haley Hanson

Veronica Latsko

Kristie Mewis

Katie Naughton

Megan Oyster

Nichelle Prince (CAN Allocated)

Sophie Schmidt (CAN Allocated)

Unprotected Players

Bridgette Andrzejewski

Chloe Castaneda (College Protected)

Taylor Comeau (Playing Rights)

Nikki Cross (Playing Rights)

Amanda Dennis

Marissa Diggs (Playing Rights)

Jamia Fields

Lindsey Harris

Melissa Henderson (Playing Rights)

Bianca Henninger (Playing Rights)

Savannah Jordan (Playing Rights)

Maegan Kelly

Cecelia Kizer

Christine Nairn

Ally Prisock

Cambria Privett

Erin Simon

Katie Stengel

Brianna Visalli


Protected Players

Abby Dahlkemper (US Allocated)

Debora De Oliveira (International)

Abby Erceg (International)

Kristen Hamilton

Hallie Mace

Merritt Mathias

Jessica McDonald

Casey Murphy

Denise O’Sullivan (International)

Lynn Williams

Samantha Mewis (US Allocated, Playing Rights)

Unprotected Players

Lindsay Agnew

Jaelene Daniels (Playing Rights)

Brianne Folds (College Protected)

Hailey Harbison

Kaleigh Kurtz

Steph Labbe (CAN Allocated)

Samantha Leshnak

McKenzie Meehan

Addisyn Merrick

Lauren Milliet

Sinclaire Miramontez

Heather O’Reilly (Playing Rights)

Cari Roccaro

Katelyn Rowland

Havana Solaun

Meredith Speck

Ally Watt

Ryan Williams


Protected Players

Claire Emslie (International)

Taylor Kornieck

Sydney Leroux

Phoebe McClernon (College Protected)

Jade Moore (International)

Alex Morgan (US Allocated, Playing Rights)

Courtney Petersen

Ali Riley

Emily Sonnett (US Allocated, Playing Rights)

Marta Vieira da Silva (International)

Marisa Viggiano

Unprotected Players

Kristen Edmonds

Caitlin Farrell (Playing Rights)

Joanna Fennema (Playing Rights)

Caitlin Foord (Playing Rights)

Ashlyn Harris (US Allocated)

Alanna Kennedy (International)

Abi Kim (College Protected)

Ali Krieger (US Allocated)

Camila Martins Pereira

Erin McLeod (International)

Carson Pickett

Konya Plummer (International)

Toni Pressley

Cheyenne Shorts (College Protected)

Emily Van Egmond (International)

Chelsee Washington

Brittany Wilson

Shelina Zadorsky (CAN Allocated)


Protected Players

Simone Charley

Crystal Dunn (US Allocated)

Lindsey Horan (US Allocated)

Kelli Hubly

Meghan Klingenberg

Natalia Kuikka (International)

Emily Menges

Raquel Rodriguez (International)

Christine Sinclair (CAN Allocated)

Sophia Smith

Morgan Weaver

Unprotected Players

Nadine Angerer (Playing Rights)

Bella Bixby

Celeste Boureille

Marian Dougherty

Brittany Eckerstrom

Marissa Everett

Adrianna Franch (US Allocated)

Tobin Heath (US Allocated, Playing Rights)

Tyler Lussi

Andressa Machry (Playing Rights)

Nikki Marshall (Playing Rights)

Meagan Morris (Playing Rights)

Meaghan Nally

Emily Ogle

Madison Pogarch

Hayley Raso (Playing Rights)

Katherine Reynolds (Playing Rights)

Angela Salem

Becky Sauerbrunn (US Allocated)

Gabby Seiler

Katrina Tarr (Playing Rights)

Rachel Van Hollebeke (Playing Rights)

Christen Westphal

Sandra Yu (Playing Rights)


Protected Players

Bethany Balcer

Lauren Barnes

Amber Brooks

Jess Fishlock

Sofia Huerta

Darian Jenkins

Rose Lavelle (US Allocated, Playing Rights)

Allie Long (US Allocated)

Kristen McNabb

Yuka Momiki

Leah Pruitt

Unprotected Players

Morgan Andrews

Julia Ashley

Michelle Betos

Meg Brandt (College Protected)

Mariah Bullock (Playing Rights)

Stephanie Catley (Playing Rights)

Stephanie Cox

Shirley Cruz Trana (International)

Kiersten Dallstream (Playing Rights)

Schuyler Debree (Playing Rights)

Machaela George

Madison Hammond

Sam Hiatt (College Protected)

Kelcie Hedge

Celia Jimenez Delgado (International)

Adrienne Jordan (Playing Rights)

Alyssa Kleiner (Playing Rights)

Theresa Nielsen (Playing Rights, International)

Morgan Proffitt (Playing Rights)

Quinn (International)

Megan Rapinoe (US Allocated)

Taylor Smith

Jasmyne Spencer

Jodie Taylor (Playing Rights)

Rumi Utsugi (Playing Rights)

Abby Wambach (Playing Rights)

Danielle Weatherholt

Rosie White (International)

Lydia Williams (Playing Rights)

Beverly Yanez (Playing Rights)


Protected Players

Imani Dorsey

Nahomi Kawasumi (International)

Amanda McGlynn

Paige Monaghan

Ifeoma Onumonu

Mallory Pugh (US Allocated)

Margaret Purce

Kailen Sheridan (CAN Allocated)

Evelyne Viens (International)

Sarah Woldmoe 

McCall Zerboni

Unprotected Players

Nicole Baxter

Melanie Booth (Playing Rights)

Jennifer Cudjoe (International)

Julie Doyle (Playing Rights)

Caprice Dydasco

Elizabeth Eddy

Sabrina Flores

Mandy Freeman

Christina Gibbons (Playing Rights)

Didi Haracic

Megan Hinz

Jennifer Hoy (Playing Rights)

Estelle Johnson

Gina Lewandowski

Carli Lloyd (US Allocated)

Jill Loyden (Playing Rights)

Manya Makoski (Playing Rights)

Dominique Richardson

Kaleigh Riehl

Erica Skroski

Chantelle Swaby (College Protected)

Madison Tiernan (Playing Rights)

Rebecca Tweed (Playing Rights)

Kenie Wright


Protected Players

Elizabeth Ball

Kate Bowen

Rachel Corsie

Kate Del Fava

Tziarra King

Lo’eau Labonta

Kelley O’Hara (US Allocated)

Amy Shilling

Abigail Smith

Michele Vasconcelos

Gabrielle Vincent

Unprotected Players

Nicole Barnhart

Veronica Boquete (International)

Kate Deines (Playing Rights)

Cyera Hintzen (College Protected)

Lauren Holiday (Playing Rights)

Gunnhildur Jonsdottir

Samantha Johnson (Playing Rights)

Amanda Laddish (Playing Rights)

Taylor Leach

Taylor Lytle

Michelle Maemone

Diana Matheson (CAN Allocated)

Sydney Miramontez (Playing Rights)

Madeline Nolf

Christen Press (US Allocated, Playing Rights)

Brittany Ratcliffe

Desiree Scott (CAN Allocated)

Arielle Ship

Raisa Strom-Okimoto

Erika Tymrak (Playing Rights)

Mallory Weber


Protected Players

Dorian Bailey

Aubrey Bledsoe

Jordan DiBiasi

Bayley Feist

Ashley Hatch

Tori Huster

Tegan McGrady

Paige Nielsen

Ashley Sanchez

Sam Staab

Andi Sullivan

Unprotected Players

Jaye Boissiere

Averie Collins

Megan Dougherty Howard

Jenna Hellstrom (International)

Brooke Hendrix

Natalie Jacobs

Devon Kerr

Lori Lindsey (Playing Rights)

Joanna Lohman (Playing Rights)

Katie Lund

Katie McClure

Meghan McCool

Jessie Scarpa

Crystal Thomas

Kumi Yokoyama (International)


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