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Why NWSL free agency has been so quiet, and why that’s about to change

The expansion draft is its own problem, but the league has long-term issue to sort out about free agent timelines in a global market

OL Reign defender Emily Sonnett (left) and midfielder Rose Lavelle (right) look on prior to the match against Angel City FC at Lumen Field.
Photo Copyright Michael Thomas Shroyer for USA TODAY Sports

Free agents in the National Women’s Soccer League could begin negotiating with teams on Sept. 22. They were free to re-sign with their existing team at any point after that, and they became eligible to sign with new teams on Nov. 20.

There is serious intrigue around this year’s free agency class, the NWSL’s second in history. United States internationals Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Rose Lavelle, Emily Sonnett and Mallory Swanson are among the unrestricted free agents who could sign anywhere in the NWSL’s new world of semi-autonomy — or anywhere in the world, for that matter.

Yet, three months after negotiations commenced and nearly a month after players became eligible to sign where they please, there have been few major announcements. What gives?

In short, the structure of the NWSL’s timeline, combined with its convoluted rules in an expansion year, created a situation that deterred teams from signing players before Friday’s expansion draft.

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