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The 2020 NWSL Draft is officially behind us, and given how hectic this offseason has been, it only seems fitting that the draft was equally dramatic. A last-minute flurry of trades radically re-ordered the first five picks just as the selections were getting underway. Many of the deals involved allocation money, immediately raising questions about the new rule. The biggest story of the day, however, was Mallory Pugh being traded from Washington to Sky Blue in a deal that could have a long-term impact on both franchises.

Below, we run through all the biggest NWSL headlines from draft day and beyond:

Portland snags the top two picks, sparking debate: Portland had already traded Emily Sonnett to Orlando ahead of the draft for the No. 1 pick, with which they were widely expected to select Stanford’s Sophia Smith. They did just that, and then shocked the league by trading $70,000 of allocation money and two later picks to the Chicago Red Stars for the No. 2 pick, which they subsequently used on Washington State’s Morgan Weaver. Weaver was a one-woman wrecking crew during Washington State’s magical run to last year’s College Cup, where Smith herself scored a hat trick in the semifinal. Portland now has two young offensive stars to anchor its apparent rebuild.

The trade between Portland and Chicago was one of many on draft day to involve allocation money, which was only introduced this past November. Intended to help teams pay certain players above the salary cap, the new spending mechanism is now already under fire, as coaches (including North Carolina’s Paul Riley) have said it will set a new precedent allowing teams to essentially buy first round draft picks. Expect this to be a hotly-debated issue moving forward.

Sky Blue trades for Mallory Pugh: In a deal no one saw coming, the 21-year-old USWNT forward was traded from Washington to Sky Blue for the 4th, 13th, and 17th overall picks in this year’s draft, as well as a first round pick in next year’s draft. Pugh skipped college to join the Spirit three years ago, but hasn’t quite lived up to, let alone surpassed, the hype that comes with being a teenage wunderkind, and just last week she was left off the USWNT’s Olympic roster. Still, she’s only 21, making this trade a potential franchise-changer for Sky Blue if Pugh can get back on track. A year ago Sky Blue couldn’t even convince their two draft picks to sign with the club. Now they have an A-list name to headline their roster as they move into Red Bull Arena next season, completing a stunning one-year turnaround.

Washington Spirit trade up for Ashley Sanchez: Sanchez, like Sophia Smith, left school early to enter the NWSL draft. Unlike Smith, it wasn’t obvious from the outset where Sanchez would go, and few could have predicted Washington, a franchise that initially had no first-round picks. That changed when they traded Mallory Pugh to Sky Blue, giving the Spirit the opportunity to immediately draft her potential replacement in Sanchez, another dribble-heavy offensive talent who starred for the USWNT at the youth level before being called into the senior team as a teenager. With the additions of Sanchez and Averie Collins (Washington’s second-round pick) to a squad that already includes Rose Lavalle, Jordan DiBiasi, Tegan McGrady, and Andi Sullivan — all of whom are under 25 —  it’s clear the Spirit now have a young core to build around.

Chicago Red Stars rake in players, money, and future picks: After falling in last season’s championship game and watching Sam Kerr decamp to Chelsea, the Red Stars managed to turn four first round picks in this years draft into Rachel Hill, a reported $85,000 in allocation money, five picks in this draft, and a first round pick in next year’s draft. The Red Stars now have four first round picks in next year’s draft, and while neither Hill nor any of the five players selected this year may turn out to be franchise stars, they’re all valuable assets that can be bundled in a variety of ways moving forward as Chicago looks to rebuild on the fly.

Reign FC announce new, controversial head coach: Former OL and PSG head coach Farid Benstiti has officially been named the new head coach of Reign FC. Benstiti won four league titles and three cups during his time in France and has a long track record of developing world-class players. He’s also the coach who told Lindsey Horan she wouldn’t be allowed off the bench until she lost weight. Horan went on to make an entire commercial based on the slight, and though she’s since said that Benstiti’s tough love made her a better player, there’s no doubt this hire — the first to be made by new ownership group OL Groupe — could come under serious fire if Benstiti isn’t able to establish good relationships out of the gates.

Below is every pick from the 2020 draft:

Round 1:

  1. Portland — Sophia Smith, Stanford

  2. Portland — Morgan Weaver, Washington State

  3. Orlando — Taylor Kornieck, Colorado

  4. Washington — Ashley Sanchez, UCLA

  5. Sky Blue — Evelyne Viens, USF

  6. North Carolina — Alleandra Watt, Texas A&M

  7. Orlando — Courtney Peterson, Virginia

  8. Utah — Tziarra King, North Carolina State University

  9. Reign FC — Kelcie Hedge, Santa Clara

Round 2:

  1. Orlando — Konya Plummer, UCF

  2. Sky Blue — Kaleigh Riehl, Penn State

  3. Utah — Kate Del Fava, Illinois State

  4. Washington — Natalie Jacobs, USC

  5. Orlando — Phoebe McClernon, UVA

  6. Chicago — Julia Bingham, USC

  7. Chicago — Camryn Biegalski, UW

  8. Washington — Averie Collins, Washington State

  9. Houston — Bridgette Andrzejewski, UNC

Round 3:

  1. Chicago — Zoe Morse, UVA

  2. Sky Blue — Amanda McGlynn, Virginia Tech

  3. Orlando — Cheyenne Shorts, Denver

  4. Houston — Chloe Castaneda, UCLA

  5. Washington — Katie McClure, Kansas

  6. Chicago — Ella Stevens, Duke

  7. Portland — Meaghan Nally, Georgeton

  8. Orlando — Abi Kim, Cal

  9. North Carolina — Sinclaire Miramontez, Nebraska

Round 4:

  1. North Carolina — Addisyn Merrick, Kansas

  2. Sky Blue — Chantelle Swaby, Rutgers

  3. Orlando — Chelsee Washington, Bowling Green

  4. Utah — Cyera Hintzen, Texas

  5. Washington — Kaiya McCullough, UCLA

  6. Reign FC — Sam Hiatt, Stanford

  7. Reign FC — Meg Brandt, Nebraska

  8. Chicago — Aerial Chavarin, Yale

  9. North Carolina — Brianne Folds, Auburn

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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