NWSL Sets Rules, New Wrinkles for Racing Louisville FC's Expansion Draft

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NWSL expansion team Racing Louisville FC has two players in the fold for its inaugural season, and over a dozen more are on the way.

The league set the rules and parameters for the new club's Nov. 12 expansion draft on Wednesday, with some added wrinkles surrounding the allocated U.S. women's national team players and the rights of the U.S. stars who are currently playing abroad.

The broad strokes are as follows: Teams can protect 11 players, including up to two who are on U.S. Soccer's designated list of 23 allocated USWNT players. The protected lists are due Nov. 4 and will be distributed a day later, giving Louisville a week to come up with a strategy. 

Teams can lose up to two players, but if one of their USWNT allocated players is taken, then they will not be subjected to any more selections. Louisville, meanwhile, can only pick two allocated players, total. It'll also be put to a choice: if it takes only one allocated player, it will receive $75,000 in allocation money (which can be used to supplement salaries outside of the cap and to increase the likelihood of signing top international talent), and if it doesn't take any allocated players, it will receive $150,000. Conversely, any teams that have an allocated player taken will receive $75,000 in allocation money for their troubles.

One other caveat is that NWSL is allowing for allocation money to be used toward the first pick in the league's draft, which Louisville holds. That could theoretically incentivize a player like Stanford sensation and recent USWNT call-up Catarina Macario to declare for the draft, with the fall college season postponed due to the pandemic.

"We as a club are pleased the rules are now finalized for the NWSL expansion draft," manager Christy Holly said in a statement. "We are eager to work toward fine-tuning the best approach toward what is such a vital step in the process of building out a competitive team for our inaugural season."

The draft is slated to last up to 18 rounds (up to two players taken from nine clubs), but it will max out at 16. Louisville, in effect, has already picked its two players from Chicago in a trade announced on Monday. It acquired forwards Yuki Nagasato and Savannah McCaskill, while also accruing a draft pick and international roster slot in exchange for expansion draft relief. Chicago doesn't need to concern itself with the potential of Louisville picking any of its remaining top stars.

That limits the pool of allocated players considerably, which Chicago employing five of the 23 (Morgan Gautrat, Julie Ertz, Casey Short, Alyssa Naeher, Tierna Davidson). Five others are currently playing abroad and will be through the end of the Women's Super League season in England (Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis). The NWSL teams that maintain their league rights must include them among their protected players if they wish to eliminate any risk of losing them and ensure Louisville does not take on their rights. 

The list of non-Chicago clubs along with their allocated players is as follows:

Orlando Pride: Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, Emily Sonnett

Utah Royals: Christen Press, Kelley O'Hara

Portland Thorns: Adrianna Franch, Lindsey Horan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Tobin Heath, Crystal Dunn 

Sky Blue FC: Carli Lloyd, Mal Pugh

OL Reign: Megan Rapinoe, Allie Long, Rose Lavelle

North Carolina Courage: Sam Mewis, Abby Dahlkemper

Washington Spirit: None

Houston Dash: None