The National Women’s Soccer League announced Wednesday that its board of governors has voted to expand the pool of collegiate athletes eligible for the 2021 NWSL Draft by eliminating the registration requirement for seniors.
Now, all “senior” collegiate athletes are deemed eligible for the draft, which will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, and stream live on the NWSL’s Twitch channel.
The move — due to the COVID-19 pandemic and postponement of some collegiate women’s soccer seasons to the spring — ensures that the most possible athletes have the opportunity to enter the NWSL Draft and play in the league this year.
Division 1 players who exhausted three years of eligibility before the 2020-2021 academic year are now draft-eligible. Clubs will hold the rights to each athlete selected in the draft for a period of time as set by the league.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have consistently made the adjustments necessary to ensure that the best women soccer players in the world have the opportunity to play in the best women’s soccer league in the world, “ said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird. “By modifying our draft eligibility requirements, and removing barriers during these unprecedented times, we’ll ensure our clubs have a more expansive opportunity to identify the best collegiate athletes for their teams and enable those athletes to join the NWSL when it makes sense for them.”
An NWSL expansion side entering the year, Racing Louisville FC is slated to pick at No. 1 and No. 5 overall in addition to leading off the second round at No. 11, third round at No. 21 and fourth round at No. 31.
Aside from those athletes deemed automatically draft-eligible, registration remains a necessity for other players who wish to enter NWSL in 2021.
“The last year has obviously been disruptive and difficult for student-athletes as they navigate their future plans,” said NWSL Managing Director of Competition and Player Affairs Liz Dalton. “This change is a reflection of that fact and will help all of us move forward in a positive direction.”
The rights to any players selected in the NWSL Draft will be assigned to the drafting team’s College Protected List until the start of the 2022 NWSL preseason. Rights to players on a team’s College Protected List are assets of the team and may be kept, waived or traded at the team’s discretion during the Protected Period. Rights to players on a team’s College Protected List who have not been signed a standard player agreement at the end of the Protected Period will be waived.