As the U.S. women’s national team heads home early from the 2023 World Cup, they’ll soon start preparing for the next big international tournament: the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The Games are a little less than a year away, which could be cause for panic after the USWNT suffered its earliest World Cup exit in history. With the potential for a new coaching hire and a new-look roster as veterans step away from the team, there could be many shake-ups on the horizon.

The U.S. will hope to welcome back several stars from injury, including forwards Mallory Swanson and Catarina Macario. But other injured players are question marks, as are some of the younger prospects who were left off the squad this time but could make their case in the next year. Here are five of them.

Jaedyn Shaw, Forward

Jaedyn Shaw had a case for making the USWNT’s 2023 World Cup roster. Coach Vlatko Andonovski included 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson on his final 23-player roster, and Shaw has similar promise and even more professional experience. The 18-year-old has made 22 appearances for the San Diego Wave and recorded seven goals, including four so far this season.

While no longer one of the youngest signings in the NWSL, she recently signed an extension with the Wave that will keep her with the NWSL club through 2026. She also won U.S. Soccer’s Young Player of the Year award in 2022, after a successful U-20 World Cup campaign.

“Obviously the national team recognition is going to keep coming if she keeps performing,” San Diego head coach Casey Stoney told Just Women’s Sports in June. “And we need to make sure that we look after her on and off the field, because she’s still an 18-year-old and she’s still young, and we need to make sure that she’s ready for everything that comes her way.”

By the time the 2024 Olympics roll around, Shaw will have three seasons of professional experience under her belt. While it might be difficult for Shaw to step in at forward given the USWNT’s depth at the position, she’s worthy of consideration and should earn her first senior international call-up sometime in the next year.

Mia Fishel, Forward

After being selected in the 2022 NWSL Draft, Fishel opted to forgo the NWSL in favor of playing for Tigres UANL in Liga MX Femenil. There, the 22-year-old went on an absolute tear, becoming the first foreign-born player to win the league’s Golden Boot with 17 goals while helping Tigres to the league title as a rookie. But it wasn’t enough to earn her a USWNT roster call-up.

Conversations grew more positive over time, with Andonovski noting that NWSL forwards were “performing as good and even better than Mia,” and later saying they were “having good conversations with” her and the USWNT was “happy for her success down there.”

“At the same time, she understands the competition that is on the national team and the players she is competing against,” Andonovski said last November. “She’s patiently waiting for her opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see her in a future camp.”

Yet, as of August 2023, Fishel has yet to feature for the USWNT.

“Mia is a very good young player, we are very familiar with her qualities,” Andonovski said in January. “But as of right now, after looking at everything, we decided the forwards that we have in camp are going to give us the best chance to be successful.”

In the meantime, Fishel continued to produce in Mexico, scoring 38 goals through 48 appearances. She’ll soon get more experience against top competition after signing with European powerhouse Chelsea last week. Her transfer fee ranks among the highest in the world, meaning Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is putting a lot of stock into Fishel becoming one of the best players in the world at her position.

As Fishel joins Chelsea, expect her USWNT prospects to change heading into Olympic roster selection.

Jaelin Howell (Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports)

Jaelin Howell, Midfield

At 23 years old, Howell has one goal in five international appearances, scoring against Uzbekistan last year. She began 2023 with a USWNT call-up before seemingly falling off Andonovski’s radar.

When it comes to the role of defensive midfielder, Howell is elite. The 2022 No. 2 draft pick ranks in the 90th percentile or better in tackles, interceptions, clearances and aerials won in the NWSL. Her pass completion is 80.2 percent this season for Racing Louisville, and she’s creating 1.76 shot attempts per 90, which is good for seventh in the NWSL. She’s also first in the NWSL in tackles and tackles won, and she ranked first blocks in 2022.

Why Howell hasn’t gotten a deeper look for the USWNT is a mystery, though that could change heading into 2024 — especially given how some of her Racing Louisville teammates performed at this year’s World Cup.

Sam Coffey, Midfield

Sam Coffey was one of a few players who drew the short straw for the USWNT’s World Cup roster. One of the team’s biggest snubs alongside forward Ashley Hatch, Coffey had been having a great start to the NWSL season at the No. 6 position. But her style of play didn’t always fit with Andonovski’s tactical decisions, and with Andi Sullivan out-playing her in camp and the return of Julie Ertz, there wasn’t room for the 24-year-old.

Coffey continues to develop her game as a holding midfielder, a position of need for the U.S. in the absence of Ertz, who announced her retirement after the Round of 16 loss.

“Her time will come, I have no doubt,” USWNT star forward Sophia Smith said following the roster announcement. “I fully believe that she will be the holding midfielder on the national team for a very long time.”

Phallon Tullis-Joyce (Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports)

Phallon Tullis-Joyce, Goalkeeper

Even after her heroics in the USWNT’s Round of 16 game, USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher’s time with the team will come to an end at some point. The 35-year-old will have a shot at the 2024 Olympic roster, and maybe even the 2027 World Cup, but the U.S. will need to start developing their next No. 1 keeper

While both Casey Murphy and Aubrey Kingsbury are worthy options, Phallon Tullis-Joyce continues to play her way into consideration for a USWNT look.

Tullis-Joyce has been one of the NWSL’s best goalkeepers over the last two seasons, ranking first in the league with 0.86 goals against per 90 minutes last season and currently sixth at 1.20 through 15 games this season. Her save percentage is lower this year than it was in 2022, but is still above 70 percent. As the USWNT builds out its goalkeeper depth chart for 2024, the 26-year-old has made a strong case for inclusion.

In some ways, U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski has one of the toughest jobs in women’s soccer, especially when it comes to the decisions he has to make about his roster construction. The USWNT’s depth has been tested due to unexpected injuries, and Andonovski nonetheless has had to leave a number of very talented players home from the 2023 World Cup.

There are a few players on the bubble not dealing with injury who very likely could have made the USWNT 2023 World Cup roster. These are the biggest surprises and snubs from the team’s roster reveal Wednesday.

Ashley Hatch, forward

It feels like a harsh rite of passage in a way for a player to, through no fault of their own, find themselves on the very edge of a USWNT World Cup roster after months spent in camp with the team. In 2015, that player was Crystal Dunn; in 2019, it was Casey Krueger; and this year, it is Washington Spirit center forward Ashley Hatch.

Hatch wasn’t beaten out by any one player, but rather by a concept shift and more pressing issues elsewhere on the pitch. Rose Lavelle’s lingering injuries made way for Savannah DeMelo earning a surprise spot, while Becky Sauerbrunn’s absence might pull Julie Ertz away from the midfield. A spot had to be sacrificed, and Andonovski felt he had enough cover from players who can start both centrally and on the wings to eliminate the backup center-forward role entirely. It’s difficult to argue against the way Andonovski has shifted things to make numbers work throughout the roster, but the loss of Hatch could alter the attack even further.

Sam Coffey had a standout 2022 rookie season for her club team and the USWNT. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Sam Coffey and Jaelin Howell, midfielders

Andonovski moved away from developing Howell and Coffey into 2023 World Cup defensive midfielders months ago, making their exclusion less of a surprise as it is an ongoing frustration. Coffey has the distributive skills and sophisticated spacing of a veteran far beyond her years, and Howell is the kind of disruptor USWNT fans are used to in the position.

Together, they’d make the perfect addition to the USWNT’s midfield numbers. Individually, they have been left to develop further with their club teams rather than within the U.S.’s punishing system that requires players to cover a significant amount of ground, have an elite defensive presence and distribute the ball.

Tierna Davidson, defender

Davidson fell prey to timing in many ways, as her return from an ACL injury coincided with her club, the Chicago Red Stars, struggling mightily on the pitch. Chicago has changed its formation multiple times while Davidson has tried to get her confidence and timing back in both a three- and a four-back system.

The result became a defense that couldn’t stop leaking goals, and while club issues were not enough to keep entrenched goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher off the World Cup roster, Davidson never got a chance to resume the elite play she had been known for.

Casey Krueger also missed out on the USWNT's 2019 World Cup roster. (Bill Barrett/USSF/Getty Images)

Casey Krueger, defender

Davidson’s Red Star teammate, Casey Krueger, hasn’t seen her personal form dip despite Chicago’s issues, but multiple small decisions Andonovski faced likely kept her off a World Cup roster once again. Krueger has been fit and effective on both sides of the ball this season and is still one of the best American 1v1 defenders in the world. She can also play center back when asked to, possessing the type of versatility the U.S. usually prioritizes.

But after controversially being the last player off the plane in 2019, Krueger doesn’t have World Cup experience, and the loss of Sauerbrunn likely had Andonovski looking for someone who had been in that position before. He opted for crossing specialist Sofia Huerta to break down low blocks, and longtime veteran Kelley O’Hara to offset the defense’s experience gap despite dealing with a few lingering injuries herself.

AD Franch, goalkeeper

Franch has won a World Cup and an Olympic bronze medal with the USWNT, and she had worked her way back into consistent camps through stellar performances in 2022. But Franch’s form hasn’t been quite the same in 2023 as Kansas City deals with defensive injuries, leading to the 32-year-old being benched in favor of Cassie Miller.

The U.S. has a long history of expecting goalkeepers to have different levels of form for club and country with how many variables can exist in a club environment — Alyssa Naeher being a primary example. But Franch’s inability to get back on the field, combined with the excellent form of Aubrey Kingsbury, was just enough to push Andonovski into a late switch for his third goalkeeper spot.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Every game day morning, Jaelin Howell walks into the Racing Louisville facilities with a cup of coffee. She oscillates between plain black coffee, espresso or a latte with almond milk, but she never uses any flavoring.

“I like to taste the beans,” she tells Just Women’s Sports.

Then, she takes time to journal, putting on her headphones to help her visualize the kind of game she wants to have. She follows her moment of zen with a prayer. And then she heads off to get hyped in the locker room with her teammates.

That series of events provides the perfect combination for Howell: She gets dialed in, then lets loose and has fun. In her first season in the NWSL, which included some growing pains, Howell discovered the importance of a game-day routine. She’s not superstitious. She just knows what works.

And now, after a rookie campaign in which Howell started all 22 of her team’s matches, she will have a chance to perfect her routine off the field and her play on it. The 23-year-old midfielder signed a contract extension Tuesday, adding another year to her original deal and keeping her with Racing Louisville through 2025.

“Racing has treated me super well, and they’ve always invested in me,” she said. “I see a lot of great things in the future of the club.

“I felt really comfortable my first year, and I felt like the staff and the players really embraced me, and I felt like it was a good environment for me to be in for the next couple of years.”

Howell was the second overall pick in the 2022 NWSL draft following a successful college career at Florida State, where she won back-to-back Hermann Trophies and led her squad to two NCAA titles.

In college, Howell became accustomed to success — her Florida State teams went a combined 72-14-12 — but Racing Louisville didn’t see the same kind of results during her rookie season. The club went 5-8-9 on the year and missed out on the playoffs.

Still, Howell believes the team has the right combination of youth and experience, as well as the resources and facilities, to take the next step in 2023.

“Our team got closer throughout the season, and I think we are going to make the right adjustments to come out and have a different season, and get the results we want,” she said.

Racing Louisville has a young roster, and adjusting to life in the NWSL takes time, Howell said. The college season is much shorter and less of a grind.

So Howell learned to prioritize recovery, listening to what her body needed throughout the grueling season. She also had to work on the mental aspects of the game.

“I didn’t realize the expectations I had put on myself, coming off of a national championship and a MAC Hermann,” she said. “I just really wanted to prove myself in the league, and I think, honestly, put a little too much pressure on myself.”

Howell started seeing a sports psychologist. By the middle of the season, she felt more confident on the field. Howell has always been a perfectionist, and seeing a psychologist helped her get out of her own head.

“I want to control everything, and I would get in my head about stuff,” she said. “So a lot of it for me was just letting go, letting loose and just playing. I found myself playing a lot better, a lot more free, and it helped me tremendously.”

With her rejuvenated mental state and the young talent around her, Howell believes good things are coming for both her and her team.

Individually, one of those things could be a more permanent spot on the U.S. women’s national team. Howell has made five appearances for the USWNT since 2020, including three in 2022, but she wasn’t named to the most recent roster for the squad’s two friendly matches in New Zealand.

“Hopefully, we continue to get more and more talent (at Racing), and we can commit and push each other in training environments,” she said. “I think our performance last year didn’t really show the capabilities that we have. I’m excited to see our potential, and I think that, combined with our fantastic facilities and training environment, is going to help me grow.”

Howell is growing and changing, and so is the league. Both for the better, Howell thinks.

The rookie joined the NWSL during a tumultuous time. The Sally Yates report and the NWSL and NWSLPA joint report, both published during Howell’s first year as a pro, uncovered patterns of abuse and misconduct in the league. Racing Louisville was cited in both reports, with former coach Christy Holly at the center of the allegations, though the club was far from the only one implicated.

Howell is glad the issues have come to light, and she is optimistic for a better Racing Louisville and a better NWSL going forward.

“I’m looking forward to the changes being implemented and the future in 2023,” she said. “I think the league and the club are heading in the right direction. I’m excited.”

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Racing Louisville FC midfielder Jaelin Howell will replace San Diego Wave midfielder Taylor Kornieck on the U.S. Women’s National Team October roster, U.S. Soccer announced Saturday.

Kornieck has been ruled out of the team’s European swing due to an ankle injury.

The USWNT will take on England at Wembley Stadium on October 7 before traveling to Pamplona to face Spain on October 11.

Howell has five caps with the USWNT, most recently taking the pitch for the United States in the team’s April 9 matchup against Uzbekistan. Her last national team call-up came in June ahead of the 2022 Concacaf W Championship.

Kornieck joins San Diego Wave teammate Alex Morgan on the USWNT’s injury list, both missing the national team’s fall friendlies.

San Diego Wave head coach Casey Stoney will hope the break will help Morgan and Kornieck to get back healthy for the club’s NWSL playoff run.

“Alex, Taylor, Katie Johnson, Abby, the list is a bit endless to be honest,” Stoney said of San Diego’s injury list. “Now it’s about giving the players a little bit of rest time because it’s been a long season, this league takes it out of you when you are traveling coast to coast, to play a 90-minute game.”

Jaelin Howell won the Mac Hermann trophy once again, becoming the sixth player in history to receive the honor in back-to-back seasons.

The Florida State star was announced as the 2021 recipient during a banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis on Friday night. Coaches vote on the most coveted individual award in Division I soccer, which recognizes the best player during the NCAA season.

Howell beat out BYU midfielder Mikayla Colohan and Santa Clara forward Kelsey Turnbow for the honor.

Friday’s award ceremony capped a landmark season for Howell, who led Florida State to the NCAA Championship in December before being selected second overall in the 2022 NWSL Draft by Racing Louisville.

The midfielder notched three goals and four assists in her 25 appearances with the Seminoles in 2021, anchoring the team in the center of the field. She was named a First-Team All-American and the ACC Midfielder of the Year for the second year in a row.

Howell joins U.S. women’s national team stars Catarina Macario, Morgan Gautrat, Cindy Parlow Cone and Mia Hamm as a back-to-back Mac Hermann champion.

With the second overall pick of the 2022 NWSL College Draft, Racing Louisville FC selected midfielder Jaelin Howell out of Florida State University.

Sources had told Just Women’s Sports earlier in the week that Howell would likely be taken at the No. 1 slot by San Diego Wave FC. However, as was reported on the eve of the draft by Jeff Kassouf, San Diego ended up going with Naomi Girma out of Stanford instead.

A two-time national champion with the Seminoles, Howell has earned high praises from the likes of USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski and was nominated for U.S. Soccer’s 2021 Young Player of the Year award. She wrapped up her senior year at FSU as one of the nation’s top players, being named a First Team All-American in 2021.

The 2020 MAC Hermann Trophy winner started 21 games as a midfielder this year, helping lead a group that recorded 23 shutouts while adding two goals and four assists — include the NCAA semifinals game winner.

Jaelin Howell looked out across a large, excited crowd at Florida State and prepared to address them. Years earlier, she might not have been as composed; but after winning her second national championship with Florida State in a shootout over BYU, the senior stood up on behalf of her teammates and thanked the fans who welcomed them home from the College Cup.

“Jaelin stood up there and had a little bit of a speech,” FSU head coach Mark Krikorian says. “She delivered it graciously, elegantly and she looked like a leader. She looked like a pro … It had nothing to do with being on the field. It had everything to do with the way she presented herself.”

It took a few seasons for Howell to grow into the person who could both dominate college soccer and command the respect of her coaches and teammates. The traits the team admires in Howell – her leadership, competitiveness and growth mentality – are the same ones that have impressed coaches at the next level, where Howell is expected to land as the No. 1 pick in Saturday’s NWSL College Draft.

Howell’s Florida State coaches saw her potential as a leader before she did, naming her captain as a sophomore. Krikorian says they chose her because she is an emotional leader, the type who can set the tone and standard for others. It was clear she had the capacity to develop other leadership qualities, as well.

The role was a lot of responsibility for Howell to take on, as she was leading players who were older than she was at 19. But she had good teachers in the seniors who guided the Seminoles to a national title in 2018 during Howell’s freshman year.

“As a freshman, I didn’t realize how big of a deal honestly it was, winning a national championship, and how hard it is,” she says.

The daughter of Super Bowl champion John Howell, Jaelin brought a winning mentality to Florida State. In the years between FSU’s two national championships, she learned how to channel her competitiveness to get her teammates to buy in, too.

Howell and Krikorian would often sit in his office and pore over the monthly Coaching and Leadership Journal, full of tips and stories from successful people all around the world, in industries from sports to business. Howell got to choose which sections to focus on in their sessions, and she and Krikorian would unpack the details.

A big lesson Howell took away from those meetings is that captaincy is not entirely up to her.

“I depend on a lot of girls on the team to help me lead,” she says. “I think it’s partly asking the other older players their opinions and really having everybody involved so it’s not just you making decisions – it’s a full-team effort.”

(Erin Chang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

As early as Howell’s first game at Florida State, where she imposed herself physically in a 5-0 win over Troy, Krikorian knew he was working with potentially one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Her athleticism, strength and power made her the type of player Krikorian could build a program around.

Currently in the running for her second MAC Hermann Trophy, the 5-foot-8 midfielder is a physical player by nature who goes for every tackle and tries to win every header. This year, she led a defense that recorded 23 shutouts and conceded only 13 goals.

Throughout her college career, the FSU coaching staff has worked with Howell on the tactical and technical sides of her game, specifically spacing, getting touches in the midfield and changing the point of attack.

“That’s part of the reason why I came here, just to be that double-sided six,” says the Lone Tree, Colo. native. “Somebody who can go in and tackle, but also be the playmaker.”

Howell says Krikorian is a good match for her development because they’re both “no B.S. type of people” who keep conversations about the game straightforward and to the point.

“I want to hear the things that I can improve on more than the good things,” Howell says. “He’s able to do that with me. I want to be able to listen to that. I think that’s been something that’s really helped my growth as a player while being here, is just his ability to be honest, and it’s all out of love.”

Krikorian describes her as a “sponge” – coachable and open-minded. Whatever Krikorian tells her the team needs, she delivers. Howell demonstrated that during her last three games in a Seminoles uniform.

Near the end of Florida State’s NCAA quarterfinal game on Nov. 26, the sold-out crowd of 2,100 in Tallahassee, Fla. groaned as they watched Michigan goalkeeper Hillary Beall save Howell’s penalty kick in the 74th minute to preserve a 0-0 tie. Howell, frustrated, put a hand to her forehead and glanced at the goal before turning to run back into position. Fifteen minutes later, the two-time ACC Midfielder of the Year made the cross to Gabby Carle that broke the tie in overtime and sent the Seminoles to the College Cup.

“I think that shows a lot about her psychological dimension and being able to be a big-game player and play in that moment,” Krikorian says. “She has a wonderful mentality, which is second to none.”

In the semifinal against Rutgers, Howell executed her role as Florida State’s corner-kick target, scoring the game-winner that sent the Seminoles to the College Cup final for the third time in her career.

During the championship game on Dec. 6, the 22-year-old converted a penalty kick to give the Seminoles a 3-2 advantage in their 4-3 shootout win. Before that, she controlled play in the center of the park, making crunching tackles and earning a yellow card that could have easily turned into two. TV cameras caught her at the sideline mouthing to her teammate, “I can’t foul anymore.”

That wasn’t the first time Twitter found amusement in Howell’s lip reading. While she was receiving her medal at the SheBelieves Cup after her second cap with the U.S. women’s national team in February, the broadcast zeroed in on her face during the ceremony. Confused, she asked her teammates beside her, “Why am I on the big screen?”

When recalling that moment, Howell laughed.

“I knew I belonged there and I’ve worked very hard to get there, and specifically for those camps, but it was still a surreal moment standing on stage with some of those players at a tournament like that,” she says. “And so when I saw myself on the big screen, when you have Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, all these great players surrounding me, I was like, ‘I don’t know why they’re showing me right now.’ I was just kind of awestruck in that moment, honestly.”

That tournament came three months after Howell’s first USWNT cap in November, when she subbed on in the 89th minute for Sam Mewis against the Netherlands. A year later, she was nominated for U.S. Soccer’s 2021 Young Player of the Year award.

“Jaelin is a talented young player with a lot of good qualities,” USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski tells Just Women’s Sports. “She’s always very competitive and great in the team environment. We’ve enjoyed working with her during the few times we’ve had her in with the national team.”

Howell hasn’t made an appearance with the national team since then, but Andonovski hopes to see more of her in 2022.

“They’ve given her the opportunity to have her senior year and play the games and recognize that it was important for us to be able to have her as we have, but now it’s time for her to start that professional career at the international senior level and continue to develop on that,” Krikorian says. “For me, I’ll always be a fan watching and supporting her from whatever distance it may be. But she knows that.”

Howell has a bright future with the U.S. women's senior national team. (Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Over time, Howell has gotten more comfortable playing with her idols on the national team. She was especially grateful when the older players took her under their wings.

“Then you’re able to kind of get in a groove and you’re not as starstruck, like, ‘No, I do belong here. I want to stay here. I want to be a starter,’” she says.

As she prepares to enter the next stage of her soccer career, those who’ve watched her grow into a top prospect know she’s capable of so much more than that.

In Krikorian’s words: “She’ll certainly go down as one of the greats.”

Jessa Braun is an editorial intern for Just Women’s Sports. She is also the Head of North American Content for the Women’s Sports Alliance. You can find her on Twitter @jessabraun.

San Diego Wave FC plans to select Florida State midfielder Jaelin Howell with the first overall pick in the 2022 NWSL College Draft, sources tell Just Women’s Sports.

The 2020 MAC Hermann Trophy winner registered for the draft on Monday but is still exploring European options, sources say. The deadline for players to declare for Saturday’s NWSL draft is Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

Howell’s decision comes a week after she captained the Seminoles to a 4-3 shootout win over BYU in the College Cup final. Of Florida State’s three national championship teams in their 26-year program history, Howell was a part of two, with the first coming during her freshman year in 2018.

“We’re all excited to see what the next chapter holds for her,” said Florida State head coach Mark Krikorian. “She’s going to have a lot of options and choices in what it is she wants to do.”

A top recruit coming out of high school, Howell had her pick of top college soccer programs. She chose Florida State mainly because of Kirkorian’s emphasis on individual-based tactical and technical development.

Starting 21 games as a holding midfielder this season, Howell anchored a Florida State defense that recorded 23 shutouts and allowed just 13 goals. The senior, who added two goals and four assists this season, was named a First Team All-American and the ACC Midfielder of the Year for the second year in a row.

“When you take her physical and psychological tools and look at the whole package, she’s equipped with so many different elements that have allowed her to be successful and have helped us to be successful,” Kirkorian said.

“They’ve done so much for me, so it’s hard to even think about leaving,” Howell said. “I am ready for a new chapter in my life, but definitely this one is going to be sad when it comes.”

Howell would join a San Diego roster that already includes Abby Dahlkemper, Kailen Sheridan, Tegan McGrady and Alex Morgan. Ahead of their debut season in 2022, the Wave will fill out the rest of their roster during the NWSL Expansion Draft on Thursday and College Draft on Saturday. San Diego has two picks in the first round and six picks overall.

With the Division I NCAA Tournament done and dusted — capped by Florida State winning a third national championship — focus in women’s soccer shifts to the 2022 NWSL Draft.

There is plenty of uncertainty hovering over the college draft, set to take place in 10 days. For starters, players granted an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA have the chance to return, potentially depleting the talent pool of available players. Along with that, several college stars who just finished the season (think Mikayla Colohan, for example) were selected in the 2021 NWSL Draft, and those teams still hold their rights.

With those factors in mind, putting together a mock draft has an even greater degree of difficulty. Here’s a look at how things may shake out in the first round on Dec. 18 as NWSL rosters continue to come together and players decide whether or not to return to school.

1. San Diego Wave FC

Jaelin Howell, M, Florida State

At the end of an impressive collegiate career at Florida State, Howell’s reputation and quality give her the edge as the top candidate for the expansion side. She’s a defensive midfielder who can connect play, throw herself into challenges and compete for minutes right away. Adding a two-time national champion is a great opportunity for the first-year NWSL team.

2. Racing Louisville FC

Naomi Girma, D, Stanford

Another decorated youth international with the United States, Girma bounced back from a serious knee injury to excel as a center back for Stanford. She’s a ball-playing defender who will need to adjust to the demands of slowing down higher-level attackers in the NWSL. Her background with U.S. youth squads is sure to help — not to mention, her role in winning a national championship with Stanford in 2019 — and Louisville will take as many NWSL-ready players as they can get for their second season.

3. North Carolina Courage

Penelope Hocking, F, Southern California

The California native piled on the goals in her decorated four-year career at USC. In 72 games, she’s managed 54 goals and 22 assists. That record is not necessarily a guarantee of success in the NWSL, but the 5-foot-5 striker has the skills and ability to slot in as an option right away for new head coach Sean Nahas.

4. Racing Louisville FC

Emily Madril, CB, Florida State

Emerging as one of Florida State’s key players over the past couple of seasons, Madril is a ball-playing central defender who excelled this fall, in particular. Her versatility and skill with the ball add to her value in the draft since she has the potential to play as a holding midfielder, too. One of the nation’s best center backs in the fall 2021 season, Madril would give Louisville needed depth.

UCLA's Mia Fishel should be a coveted prospect on draft day. (Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

5. Orlando Pride

Mia Fishel, F, UCLA

A junior who’s declared early for the draft, Fishel finished a strong career at UCLA with back-to-back All-American honors from United Soccer Coaches. In 59 games, she scored 32 goals and added 14 assists. The longtime U.S. youth international could be set for a reunion with Amanda Cromwell, who was named head coach of the Pride on Tuesday after nine seasons at UCLA. One underlying factor is that Fishel is a native of San Diego, so one of the new California teams could make a push for her on draft day.

6. Houston Dash

Diana Ordoñez, F, Virginia

Another player who left school early, Ordoñez recently finished her third season at Virginia with 45 goals in 62 games. On the surface, her goal-scoring record is matched by few during her time at school. She’s a classic penalty-box striker who needs teams to get her the ball in the box to score. The Dash have had success with drafting UVA products in the past, and Ordoñez brings the added connection of being a Texas native.

7. North Carolina Courage

Alia Martin, CB, Michigan

The depth pool at center back is going to be more certain once all the declared players are sorted after next Monday’s deadline. Regardless, Martin looks to be one of the top prospects for the spot. She played almost every minute of the season for the Wolverines and was a key part of their run to the Elite Eight. A handful of Michigan seniors could get picked in the draft, including Sarah Stratigakis and Nicki Hernandez, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Martin goes off the board first with the pick the Courage received as part of the Sam Mewis trade.

8. Orlando Pride

Sydney Cummings, CB, Georgetown

Projecting Cummings as a first-round pick might be a reach, but she is talented, tough and a decorated central defender. After playing three seasons (2017-19) at Brown, she took her grad year at Georgetown this fall and was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year. She reads the game well defensively, is sound with the ball at her feet and could be a good building block for Cromwell. The Pride added this pick as part of the deal that sent Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger to Gotham FC.

9. San Diego Wave FC

Sydny Nasello, F, South Florida

The expansion team can go in any number of directions here. Nasello has officially declared for the draft and has the talent to be a late first-round or early second-round pick, depending on who declares and how the draft unfolds. She’s a tricky dribbler and a wide attacker who enjoyed a career year this fall with 11 goals. She’s also a candidate to shift to an attacking outside back role, though she should stick as a depth forward at the very least.

10. OL Reign

Summer Yates, M, Washington

Attacking midfielder is perhaps the position most difficult to project for players making the jump from college soccer to the pro ranks. Yates played underneath the striker and up front at UW, enjoying a very solid career in the Pacific Northwest that included 20 goals and 17 assists in 74 games across four years. A team like OL Reign is sure to have a lengthy scouting profile on her, and if she can play a bit deeper and dig in defensively, her attacking abilities could really shine.

11. Chicago Red Stars

Frankie Tagliaferri, M/F, Rutgers

There are a lot of similarities between Tagliaferri and Yates, both attacking midfielders who are looking to stick in the NWSL. Tagliaferri transferred to Rutgers for her fifth season after four years at Penn State, enjoying a stellar fall season. Finishing the campaign with 13 goals and nine assists, Tagliaferri earned Big Ten Midfielder of the Year honors and boosted her draft stock. The Red Stars need players at a number of positions after making several high-profile trades, and Tagliaferri makes plenty of sense here.

12. Kansas City Current

Cameron Tucker, F, BYU

The speedster from Utah was a huge part of BYU’s success over the past few seasons. She knows how to find he back of the net, scoring 43 goals and added 29 assists in 97 games for the 2021 NCAA runners-up. A back-shoulder runner who could feature anywhere across a front three, her combination play with Colohan indicates that she can also drop in and combine. With a big roster at the moment, Kansas City can go with the best player available here, and Tucker is arguably the strongest forward left at this point.

Travis Clark is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering college soccer and the NWSL Draft. He is also the Director of Content at Top Drawer Soccer. Follow him on Twitter @travismclark.

Jaelin Howell’s goal lifted No. 1 Florida State to a 1-0 victory over No. 5 Rutgers on Friday night, earning the Seminoles a spot in the College Cup final on Monday.

The senior’s game-sealing finish came in the second half, breaking the 0-0 stalemate between the teams. Howell volleyed in a loose ball off of an FSU corner kick to put her side up 1-0 with 19 minutes remaining.

With the win, Florida State’s all-time record in the semifinals improved to 5-6-1 and the program has advanced to its third national championship appearance in four years. The Seminoles are the second-winningest team in NCAA Tournament history behind soccer powerhouse North Carolina.

Howell is widely considered the top prospect in the 2022 NWSL Draft if she decides to declare.

Florida State will face No. 4 BYU on Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPNU in the College Cup final.