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‘The best option’: Why the time was right for Deyna Castellanos to join Bay FC, NWSL

Four years after skipping the NWSL Draft to play pro in Europe, the Venezuelan international returns to the U.S. to become one of the highest-paid players in the league

Deyna Castellanos at Manchester City.
Getty Images/Photo Provided

“Maybe one day,” Deyna Castellanos wrote over four years ago as the cliffhanger in her tweet about deciding against playing in the National Women’s Soccer League.

At the time, Castellanos was wrapping up a standout college career at Florida State. She decided against entering her name into the NWSL Draft and left her destination to chance, eventually signing with Atletico Madrid in Spain.

However, this Friday, the 24-year-old Venezuelan international finally arrived in the NWSL as the newest member of Bay FC, a 2024 NWSL expansion team. She arrives via transfer from Manchester City and signed a contract that sources say would be worth around $1.8 million over four years as a total package if the fourth-year mutual option is exercised. That is believed to make her the highest-paid international in the league as of now.

As she reiterated two years ago in another tweet, her arrival in the NWSL was always going to coincide with increased player autonomy, something the league has slowly added through free agency in recent years. Teams’ salary caps also increased by about 40% in 2024. Bay FC — and the NWSL — was mutually her choice.

“At that moment, for me, the draft wasn’t a good option,” Castellanos told The Equalizer in an exclusive interview. “It was something that I didn’t really like, the clubs choosing me and not me choosing them. It was something that I really struggled with and that’s why I didn’t want to stay and go in the draft. Now, I have the opportunity to come back. It’s a club that I really want to play for, and they really want me, too. It was that midpoint where you say, ‘OK it’s the best option and I really want this. Let’s go for it.’”

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