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The Lowdown: Unique NWSL College Draft looks ready to surprise

Photo copyright by Lewis Gettier/The Equalizer

About the only thing normal ahead of Wednesday night’s National Women’s Soccer League College Draft is that nothing is normal. After 10 months of a world engulfed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the specter of the unknown has been the one true constant.

“Unique,” is the word Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames used to describe the leadup to the draft.

Instead of the usual gala event inside a ballroom as part of the massive United Soccer Coaches Convention — which this year was to be at the Anaheim Convention Center — the NWSL College Draft is going virtual this year. The broadcast team will be at a studio in Florida. The teams will be at their respective home bases. There will obviously not be any players in attendance, an area in which the NWSL has made giant strides in recent years.

“Unique situation. Unique circumstances,” Dames continued. ”It’s different than anything we’ve experienced obviously. Certainly not how the previous drafts have been held. I think it changes the thought process of how you approach it a little bit.”

But the virtual nature of the draft is not the half of it. Last week, the league announced that all college seniors with three years of Division I play under their belts would be automatically eligible for the draft. The league officially cited flexibility during the pandemic as the logic behind the move. Several sources have confirmed to The Equalizer that the decision was driven by a lack of registered players, something that in and of itself could be pandemic-related. At the time, the rule was adopted there were fewer players registered than there are draft spots.

“The whole landscape changed in a day,” Dames said. “The draft pool just went from 30 people to 3,000 people.”

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The Lowdown is a weekly column from Dan Lauletta which has run on The Equalizer for the better part of the last decade, through multiple professional leagues. Subscribe to The Equalizer Extra to access this weekly insight going forward. For a limited time, get 50% OFF your first year of membership with code “HALFOFF” at checkout. Start your FREE, 7-day trial now.

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