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Looking ahead to the 2021 NWSL Draft

Explaining the NWSL draft and how the Thorns may strategize in this new-look draft.

2020 NWSL Draft Photo by Howard Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The National Women’s Soccer League announced on Jan. 6, 2021 that the league would eliminate the draft registration requirement. This rule-change came about after a lot of speculation about how the draft would look with the 2020 fall NCAA women’s soccer season postponed until the spring of 2021.

There were questions about whether a player would be able to play the collegiate spring season and enter the draft and college players were facing the daunting decision of entering the draft and missing their senior season or staying and waiting for the next draft.

The 2021 NWSL Draft rule-change has eliminated the draft registration. The league did this to expand the eligible athlete pool.

The league stated that the “rule-change is intended to maximize opportunities for athletes and clubs during the pandemic-altered season,” after the Board of Governors voted in agreement.

Basically, the league has eliminated all registration requirements for seniors. Now all senior collegiate athletes are eligible for the draft without having to register.

Registration is required for the athletes who meet the league’s eligibility requirements and want to be included in the draft.

The league also stated that “clubs will hold the rights to each athlete selected in the draft period set by the league.” They continued to explain that the rights to players selected will be assigned to drafting teams College Protected List until the start of the 2022 NWSL preseason.

This allows players to be selected in the draft and choose whether they want to join the NWSL immediately for the 2021 season or finish their collegiate career and join in the league in 2022.

Portland Thorns FC currently has the No. 7, No. 12, No. 22, No. 32 and No. 37 picks. Expect the Thorns to trade these picks to move up in the draft order, secure picks for a later draft, or bolster their roster because it is extremely unlikely that they will use five draft picks in such an unclear draft environment.

The Thorns are in need of another center defensive midfielder and will likely trade picks for a player that can fill this roll or draft a player that can fill the road. But there is still one big question — the question of Catarina Macario. She is undoubtedly the top prospect in all of college soccer and was recently called up to the USWNT for the second consecutive time. The Stanford player has not announced whether or not she will enter the draft but whether she is available in the 2021 or 2022 draft, every team in the league will be vying to draft her with the number one pick.

The 2021 NWSL Draft is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 at 7 pm (EST) on Twitch.