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NWSL draft: Which players stand out from the 2023 class?

Alabama’s Reyna Reyes is a player to watch in the 2023 NWSL draft. (John Blackie/USA TODAY NETWORK)

The 2023 NWSL Draft is almost upon us, and the league has released the list of all players who have registered so far.

Registration closes on Monday, Jan. 9, and the draft is set for 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 12, in Philadelphia. The list includes 110 players so far, with more players expected to join.

Just Women’s Sports breaks down what you need to know ahead of the draft — and which players you should watch.

How many rounds are in the draft?

The draft includes four rounds of 12 picks each, with a total of 48 players to be selected.

Who has the first overall pick?

NJ/NY Gotham FC holds the first overall pick, followed by the Orlando Pride, who have the second and third picks.

The Portland Thorns have the last pick of each round after winning their third NWSL championship this season.

Who are players to watch?

So far, no players from national champion UCLA or runner-up North Carolina have entered the draft pool.

But quite a few players from the Alabama Crimson Tide, who lost to the Bruins in the semifinals, have thrown their names in the ring. Among them are star defender Reyna Reyes, who scored a career-high eight goals this season.

Forwards Riley Mattingly Parker and Ashlynn Serepca and goalkeeper McKinley Crone are also on the list.

Just one Stanford player — midfielder Sierra Enge — features on the list so far. A player out of Stanford has been the No. 1 overall pick in four out of the last five years: Naomi Girma (2022), Sophia Smith (2020), Tierna Davidson (2019) and Andi Sullivan (2018).

Enge and TCU forward Messiah Bright both played for the U.S. U-23 Women’s Youth National Team this summer, and both should garner attention from NWSL clubs.

Former Florida State star Emily Madril made headlines this summer when she signed a contract with the NWSL to maintain her draft eligibility while she played for Swedish club BK Häcken FF. When she is selected the draft, her contract rights will go to that team.

Duke sophomore Michelle Cooper has yet to enter the NWSL draft, but the USWNT U-20 captain will be one to watch if she does make the leap.

What is the draft order for the first round?

  1. NJ/NY Gotham FC
  2. Orlando Pride (Acquired from Washington Spirit via trade)
  3. Orlando Pride
  4. Racing Louisville FC
  5. Angel City FC
  6. North Carolina Courage
  7. Chicago Red Stars
  8. Houston Dash
  9. North Carolina Courage (Acquired from San Diego Wave via trade)
  10. Kansas City Current (Acquired from Gotham FC via trade)
  11. North Carolina Courage (Acquired from Kansas City Current via trade)
  12. Portland Thorns FC

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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