Racing Has Picks, UofL Has Prospects
The NWSL draft has been long awaited in this area since the announcement of the formation of Louisville's expansion team, Racing Louisville FC. Excitement grew in November when the expansion draft allowed Racing's roster to really start to take shape, and the final step toward the first gameday roster will take place this week. The NWSL rookie draft is set for January 13th at 7PM, and Racing has five picks in the four round draft. They'll get the first player off the board in each round, as well as the fifth pick in the first round.
Prior to the last week or so, the process was pretty straightforward for the draft, and we only knew of one Louisville player making herself available for the draft, Emina Ekic. The NCAA approved a waiver late last year that would allow any eligible player to register for the draft and then decide whether to report before or after the collegiate spring season, but we haven't seen news of any other Louisville players electing to register for the draft. There are plenty of seniors on the squad, so you would expect they might want to take advantage of that, but they also have an additional year of eligibility on hand, so perhaps they'd rather ply their trade in college for one more year. Ekic has already announced that she will forego the spring season completely, leading me to believe that she is already working with draft assurances.
I said that was straightforward until last week because the NCAA and NWSL announced another rule change. This one granted blanket draft registration to any college player that has exhausted three years of eligibility. This comes without a formal draft declaration. It's similar to baseball, in that the expectation could be that players will not join the team, but it's much riskier since there are 40 picks over four rounds rather than hundreds of picks over 40 rounds. A team like Racing Louisville can hardly afford to use one of their five picks on a player that will not report.
Another change in the rules is the extension of the protected player period. When a player is drafted and does not report, the professional team still retains their rights until the end of the subsequent season... typically. This year, however, and this year only, the protected period has been extended until the start of next season. This article goes into whether or not that's good for players' rights, but it is definitely interesting for selecting players this year, and signing them after the 2021 fall college season. Whether or not that will happen, Louisville went from one player registered and likely to be taken to a whole host of "registered" players. The following is a list of players that were redshirt sophomores or beyond on Louisville's 2020 roster:
Hanna Wise, GK
Gabby Kouzelos, GK
Sarah Hernandez, D
Nadege L'Esperance, MF
Ravin Alexander, D/MF
Emina Ekic, MF
Taylor Kerwin, MF
Shay Hampton, F
Kiana Klein, MF
Lana Batson, GK
Maisie Whitsett, F/MF
Delaney Snyder, F
Cassie Amshoff, MF
Now, obviously, most other programs' eligibility lists look like this, but there are some very interesting undeclared players on this list. The most obvious is Gabby Kouzelos, who seems destined for higher play. Is she ready? I don't know the answer to that question, nor do I know what NWSL front offices think of her, but the extended protection period means that teams could take a flyer and allow a player to develop further in college. Other interesting players in that vein would be Sarah Hernandez, who has proven to be a top defender as a three year starter, and Delaney Snyder, who appears to be a rather good goal scorer. Whether either of their play translates to the next level is up for debate, but, like I said, it's not such a black and white answer.
All of our questions will be answered next week, and by the end of the month, as drafted players have until January 22nd to decide whether or not they will join the team. The draft will air in full on NWSL's Twitch Channel at 7PM on January 13th.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
Jared is out banking this week, but we'll still have a four-stack in the booth this week. Paulie will be back at the helm, thankfully, and Jeff, Daryl, and I will be along for the ride. We'll discuss the week that was in Louisville women's basketball, and then move on to look ahead at the upcoming week. There's plenty of joy and excitement to go around. Tune in at 11AM on the Cardinal Couple YouTube Channel for the live show, or check out the replay or podcast following the conclusion of the show.
Until next time, Go Cards!