OL Reign coach Laura Harvey still thinks the NWSL is as good as it gets when it comes to domestic leagues.

On Wednesday, Harvey likened playing in the NWSL to playing in the Champions League every single week.

Her comments come as she herself has been reported to be on the shortlist to replace Emma Hayes at Chelsea.

“When I first came over to the States the thought of playing in the States was on 90 percent of any player around the world’s bucket list to do,” she told Attacking Third. “I think the Champions League has become something that is on a lot of player’s bucket lists to do now too, which is great for the game.

“I think one thing about the NWSL: it’s really difficult to play in. For me, it’s like playing in the Champions League every week. And I’ve coached in it so I can say that. I think that the pace at which the games are played in this league is like international level. It’s hard to play here, and that’s a really positive thing but it’s a challenging thing too. I think leagues around the world look at the NWSL and go, ‘We’ve gotta get more competitive within our league to try and match that.’”

To Harvey, the league is unmatched commercially.

“As a brand and a market, there’s nothing like the NWSL around the world,” she said. But there’s more that the league can do to grow the soccer side. And a lot of that includes investment in team personnel and facilities.

“I think what we can do to continue to build forward is make sure that we put the right things in place to make sure that the product that’s on our field is the best it can possibly be,” she said.

NWSL coaches Laura Harvey and Casey Stoney are reportedly the two leading candidates for the Chelsea women’s job, with current manager Emma Hayes set to take over the USWNT.

According to The Times, senior players on the team want a female to be Hayes’ successor. The Chelsea coach is set to take over as manager of the USWNT after Chelsea’s season concludes.

While other names are being considered, The Times reports that the NWSL’s Laura Harvey and Casey Stoney are the leading candidates for Hayes’ replacement. Harvey currently coaches the Seattle Reign while Stoney leads San Diego Wave FC.

Both coaches have previous experience in the WSL, and are proven winners in the US. Stoney, who joined San Diego from Manchester United, led the team to the NWSL Shield in 2023. Harvey, meanwhile, is a three-time Shield winner and was the manager at Arsenal before joining the NWSL.

Harvey’s name has appeared on a number of coaching shortlists, including on the list for USWNT coach, having previously been an assistant for the national team. In August, she noted that her “priority” was her NWSL club.

“I’m very mindful that this is my priority – this job is my priority,” she said. “I love it here, that’s no secret. I’ve committed to the future of this club. … I actually give our team and player credit if my name is anywhere near anything, because that just shows the performances that our group’s been putting in.”

Alex Morgan weighed in on the NWSL expansion draft discourse Monday, saying the draft “should not exist.”

Her reaction came after her now-former San Diego Wave teammate Rachel Hill, who was selected in the expansion draft by Bay FC, posted to social media, thanking the Wave and their fans.

“Did not think I’d be sitting here writing this after only one season,” wrote Hill, who had chosen the Wave in free agency last season and signed a two-year contract through 2024. “I’ve loved every second I had in San Diego and I’m sad it’s come to an end like this.”

Morgan shared Hill’s post to her own Instagram, writing: “The NWSL expansion draft should not exist. Period. If you reach free agency and choose the club and city you want to play for, you deserve the [opportunity] to see that through. It was torture watching the expansion draft, really.”

The USWNT and San Diego Wave forward isn’t the only person to criticize the process. Multiple head coaches have done so in the last week, including Wave head coach Casey Stoney, who wrote: “We have to find a different way!!!! It can be done because I have done it!!!!!!”

Meanwhile, Laura Harvey of OL Reign, who lost two players to the expansion draft, wrote: “I’d just like to make it official. I dislike the expansion draft. I also dislike that I chose to be in England whilst it was on, so now it’s 1.30am and I’m wired. Thanks very much!”

North Carolina Courage head coach Sean Nahas also was critical of the process. Seven players were selected, five by Bay FC and two by Utah Royals FC. Of those players, two already have been traded, as San Diego brought back Sierra Enge – who had been selected by Bay FC – with the help of Houston while also trading with Utah for former OL Reign forward Elyse Bennett.

“I don’t think people actually realize the damage that is created by this process and what it does to players, clubs and those relationships,” Nahas wrote Saturday. “We should be protecting the league and not 9 players per roster. There needs to be another way.”

Before the draft, North Carolina and San Diego engaged in trades with the new teams to try and limit their losses in the draft and to maintain more control over the future of their lineups. OL Reign did not make any trades with either Bay FC or Utah Royals FC.

Utah Royals sporting director Kelly Cousins conceded after the draft that the process of expansion should change.

“When you get to draft day, it’s not nice for anyone, even for us, being in it,” Cousins said. “You’re picking a player, and a new player finds out in the moment, live on telly, that they go to another club. For us, that doesn’t sit well, I think it is something that probably should change because you’re saying a player could be uprooted. We’re a week away from Christmas, and now they might have to move to the other side of the country.”

But Bay FC general manager Lucy Rushton called the expansion draft “imperative.”

“I think it’s essential because I think without it, it would have been very difficult for us to amass a roster from within the NWSL,” she said. “Is it the nicest mechanism through which to acquire players? No, probably not, not for the players and it’s tough. I certainly think it’s essential and especially now, having gone through the process, it scares me to think what some of the numbers might have looked like that teams might have asked for to trade their players.”

The league will go through an expansion process again in a couple of years, with Boston and one other team set to begin play in 2026.

After winning the 2023 NWSL championship, Gotham FC is surging into the offseason, with free agents and U.S. women’s national team stars Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett reportedly in “advanced discussions” to sign with the club.

The news was first reported by The Athletic’s Meg Linehan, though according to her sources, no paperwork has been signed yet.

Both Lavelle and Sonnett were major players for OL Reign in the 2023 NWSL final, in which their team fell, 2-1, to Gotham.

Last month, OL Reign general manager Lesle Gallimore said the club had been in contact with both players “just about daily” since the season ended. But head coach Laura Harvey also said the club was encouraging players to explore free agency.

“I just think that free agency is something that players should live through,” Harvey said. “I said this last year with our free agents: They should live through it. And I think the expansion draft adds an extra wrinkle to that, that they know that if they’re still free, they can’t be picked. So that gives them some power [over] their own destiny outside of wherever they choose their next destination to be.”

Even with that encouragement, though, Harvey also made it clear that she wants to see midfielders Lavelle and Sonnett back on her roster in 2024.

“I think everyone knows that we really value Rose and Sonnett,” she continued. “They’re a huge part of our team. I think Sonnett’s evolution this year has been exceptional. Rose obviously had a tough year, but you saw that at the back end of the season what she can do. They know that we love them, and we want them to stay here.

Lavelle and Sonnett aren’t the only big names to be tied to Gotham in free agency. Fellow USWNT veteran Crystal Dunn has also been linked to the club, with CBS Sports reporting earlier this month that Gotham, the Orlando Pride and the Washington Spirit all are interested in her services, though The Athletic later reported that the Pride were no longer among the top contenders.

After winning the first NWSL title in franchise history, Gotham lost Ali Krieger to retirement and Ellie Jean and Mandy Haught to trades for expansion draft protection.

OL Reign are up for sale this offseason, which could throw a wrench in their free agency plans. NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman has said that the club should be sold by the end of the year.

The NWSL’s transaction window opened at 9 a.m. ET Saturday. It will remain open until 6 p.m. ET Friday before closing for a holiday break and reopening on Dec. 29.

Several NWSL head coaches have spoken out against the expansion draft.

Sean Nahas of the North Carolina Courage, Laura Harvey of OL Reign and Casey Stoney of the San Diego Wave all condemned the draft for the lack of control it creates for players and existing teams.

All three coaches had multiple players selected from their squads in Friday’s expansion draft for Bay FC and Utah Royals FC, both of which will join the league in 2024.

“I don’t think people actually realize the damage that is created by this process and what it does to players, clubs and those relationships. We should be protecting the league and not 9 players per roster. There needs to be another way,” Nahas wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Before the draft, North Carolina and San Diego engaged in trades with the new teams to try and limit their losses in the draft and to maintain more control over the future of their lineups. OL Reign did not make any trades with either Bay FC or Utah Royals FC.

Yet all three teams lost two players to the new clubs. And coaches and players aren’t happy with the lives being uprooted.

“I’d just like to make it official. I dislike the expansion draft. I also dislike that I chose to be in England whilst it was on, so now it’s 1.30am and I’m wired. Thanks very much!” Harvey wrote on X.

Many NWSL fans seem to be in agreement with coaches and players about disliking the expansion draft. Some have proposed earlier free agency, so teams can sign all of their own talent with more control from existing teams and players. None of the coaches who spoke out offered specific solutions — but they believe a new way could be found.

“We have to find a different way!!!! It can be done because I have done it!!!!!!” Stoney said on X.

In the sixth minute of the 2023 NWSL Championship, her final match as a professional soccer player, OL Reign forward Megan Rapinoe exited with a leg injury.

After her team’s 2-1 loss to Gotham FC, Rapinoe’s head coach, teammates and opponents reacted to the unexpected ending to a legendary career.

Ali Krieger, Gotham FC defender

(On what she told Rapinoe immediately after the injury) “I was just like, ‘You need to wrap that up and get back out here, so go take a couple minutes.’ And I just feel so gutted for her. Honestly, I never thought that would ever happen.

“And I feel so sad because you know football is such a risk, right? And you never know if it’s going to be your last game, your last moment. And to happen to such an incredible player, in that moment, when there was such a buildup and for us talking about this game for the past week, or actually since Sept. 13. It just is so sad and I feel for her and I’m gonna be there every step of the way for her recovery because I know how hard that can be and it’s devastating. … And I never wanted that to happen because I wanted to celebrate with her at the end.”

Midge Purce, Gotham FC forward

“It was when I saw her put her head back, I knew, I’ve seen Pinoe go down, and it was just really sad.

“And then one of the girls on their team started crying, and I turned to (Yazmeen Ryan) and I said, ‘Let’s go at her,’ because she was clearly upset. I mean, I think that definitely affected them a lot. I think it affected their concentration. And that’s sports.

“So I’m so sorry that that’s how it ended. But I don’t think it defines or in any way characterizes her impact that she’s had on myself, on this league, everything.”

Rose Lavelle, OL Reign midfielder

“It seems like a sick joke that it has to end that way. It’s just been such an honor to be able to share the field with her. So I wish we could’ve gotten it done today for her but yeah, she’s amazing and she didn’t deserve that. … I feel like she just takes it on the chin and she was still our biggest fan out there.”

Lauren Barnes, OL Reign defender

“You want Pinoe on the field as long as she can be. She is the tactic. … You’d never expect something like this to happen, and it does, and she carries herself like she always has. She is the heart and soul of our club.”

Laura Harvey, OL Reign head coach

(On Rapinoe returning to the sidelines on crutches to cheer on the team) “Pinoe, you know, she cares about the team. She cares about the club. She’d never have it any other way. And obviously everyone was devastated for her.”

Rose Lavelle has had an up-and-down year.

A lingering knee injury sidelined her for all but four regular-season NWSL games. The World Cup featured the earliest exit in USWNT history. But through it all, the 28-year-old midfielder has continued to fight her way back.

Lavelle played limited minutes – just 26 of them – in OL Reign’s first playoff game, a 1-0 win against Angel City FC on Oct. 20. But she played 82 minutes in Sunday’s 1-0 semifinal win over San Diego to help send the Reign to their first NWSL Championship appearance since 2015.

“Rosie is one of the best players in the world, there’s no question and she makes our team better, she always has done, and it’s been a really frustrating year for her with injuries,” head coach Laura Harvey said Sunday. “So to get back at this moment, she’s just something different. There’s no one like her.”

What Lavelle brings to the field is unmatched. She’s “so hard to defend,” according to Harvey, and makes the team’s dynamic different.

“She travels at pace with the ball like no one else,” Harvey continued. “And when we have her in our team, our dynamic is just different. Because we are solid we’re hard to play against. We don’t concede a lot of goals. I don’t know how many minutes it has been now since we haven’t conceded a goal. But you need different makers and we’ve relied upon a lot of people this year and unfortunately it hasn’t been Rose a lot. But you just saw tonight she’s exceptional. She’s world class.”

Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger are set to hang up their cleats at the end of the 2023 NWSL season. But both will have to wait just a little bit longer, as their teams combined to script a storybook ending for the retiring stars.

With victories in Sunday’s semifinals, OL Reign and Gotham FC set up an NWSL Championship meeting between Rapinoe and Krieger as a fitting finale to their illustrious careers. One of the U.S. women’s national team legends is guaranteed to take home the title.

Both Rapinoe and Krieger are two-time World Cup champions, having been teammates on the 2015 and 2019 USWNT squads. Rapinoe, 38, made her final appearance for the national team in September, while Krieger, 39, played her last match with the team in 2021, but they have kept their stories going in the NWSL.

Yet in the waning weeks of the season, they seemed destined for quiet ends. OL Reign and Gotham FC were in danger of missing the playoffs entirely. And even after both teams narrowly clinched postseason berths, history stood against them: The Reign had not won a playoff game since 2015, and Gotham had never won a playoff game in franchise history.

Rapinoe’s and Krieger’s teammates, though, rallied around them. And with the Reign’s 1-0 win over the No. 1 seed San Diego Wave and Gotham’s 1-0 win over the No. 2 seed Portland Thorns, the dueling Cinderella stories reached the league final.

“The fairytale is Pinoe and Kriegs,” OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said. “It’s a great story.”

USWNT and OL Reign midfielder Rose Lavelle concurred, noting: “It seems a bit poetic that the championship game is ending with Krieger and Pinoe’s last game.”

For the Reign, to cap Rapinoe’s career with her first NWSL title is the goal. For Gotham, to win a first title for Krieger has become a literal rallying cry.

“We all just feel this need to keep Ali Krieger in the game and to keep playing,” Gotham goalkeeper Mandy Haught said. “And it’s just the amazing camaraderie in this group that just like, we’re going to do this for us and we’re gonna do this for Kriegs. We’re not done yet. We’re going to go all the way.”

The U.S. women’s national team has been on the hunt for its next head coach.

From OL Reign’s Laura Harvey to Australia’s Tony Gustavsson, the rumor mill has been buzzing with names. But after a three-month search, Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes seems primed to take the job.

Just Women’s Sports has been keeping track of the conversations surrounding the search for Vlatko Andonovski’s replacement. Check back here for the latest.

Nov. 4: Chelsea’s Emma Hayes in line for USWNT opening

Emma Hayes is set to become the next head coach of the U.S. women’s national team, according to multiple reports.

The 47-year-old from England is stepping down as Chelsea head coach at the end of the Women’s Super League season. While the Women’s Super League season does not end until May 2024, Hayes could join the USWNT during international breaks over the next seven months before stepping into the role full-time at the conclusion of the season, Backheeled reported.

Hayes joined Chelsea as head coach in 2012. In her 11 seasons with the club, not including the 2023-24 season, she has won six league titles, five FA Cups, two FA League Cups and one Community Shield.

Oct. 27: OL Reign’s Harvey, Australia’s Gustavsson and Juventus’ Montemurro top shortlist

U.S. Soccer has whittled down its candidate pool, with three names atop the shortlist, The Athletic reported Friday.

OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey, Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson and Juventus women’s head coach Joe Montemurro are the leading contenders, though each comes with pros and cons.

Oct. 23: Becky Sauerbrunn: USWNT is ‘getting closer’ to hire

The 38-year-old defender spoke with reporters about the coaching search ahead of the USWNT’s October friendlies.

“I have been involved a little bit, but just kind of updated periodically about where they are in the process,” Sauerbrunn said. “I don’t know names of candidates or anything like that, but I was aware of when candidates were being flown in for interviews and that sort of thing.

“We’re getting close and I think that they’ve got a few candidates that they’re very excited about. But for the most part, it’s just been process and knowing where we are in the process.”

Sept. 29: Lorne Donaldson parts ways with Jamaica

Donaldson, who led Jamaica to the knockout round for the first time at the 2023 World Cup, is parting ways with the team, the Jamaica Football Federation announced Friday.

“After an extended discussion, both parties came to an agreement that the contract would not be renewed,” the JFF wrote on social media. Donaldson’s contract is set to expire on Sept. 30.

While Donaldson has not been linked to the USWNT opening, his name has popped up as an intriguing candidate. He coached USWNT star forwards Sophia Smith and Mallory Swanson during their youth careers in Colorado.

Sept. 24: U.S. Soccer has ‘unbelievably diverse pool’ of candidates

U.S. Soccer has gathered “an unbelievably diversity pool exciting candidates” for the USWNT head coaching position, sporting director Matt Crocker said. He also reaffirmed that the federation is “on track — comfortably on track — to be in a position to have the head coach in place and ready to support the team from that early December camp.”

The diversity in the candidate pool extends to gender, ethnicity and experience levels, which puts the USWNT in position to find the best person for the job, Crocker said.

“I feel really excited about the coaches that we have that are interested in the role, which I think is a great indication of how highly this role is considered across the world game,” he said. “My job has been from the start: Go and find us the best candidate in the world.”

Crocker also is having discussions with USWNT players about what they want to see in the next head coach. He has talked to roughly half of the team so far, and he plans to speak with “every single player,” he said.

Sept. 12: U.S. Soccer lays out timeline for hire

U.S. Soccer is hoping to hire the next head coach of the USWNT by December, sporting director Matt Crocker told TNT.

Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will remain in her position for the team’s September friendlies against South Africa and its October friendlies against Colombia.

“Twila will pick up the September and the October camps with the staff,” he said. “And you know, in an ideal world, we’d like to be in a position for the December camp to have the new head coach in place.”

For Crocker, the ability to make tactical changes on the fly is an important attribute for the next coach. He also wants the USWNT head coach to be a hands-on presence within U.S. Soccer, including at its Chicago headquarters.

Sept. 6: Mia Hamm offers decisive ‘no’ on USWNT job

The USWNT legend shut down any discussion of her name in connection with the opening, saying she does not have the “bandwidth” or “patience” for the job.

“I’m not the coaching type,” she told TODAY.com when asked if she would want to lead the team. Hamm joins several other players in turning the conversation toward more experienced coaching candidates.

Aug. 21: Carli Lloyd calls herself ‘definite no’ for USWNT opening

Several former USWNT players weighed in on their own credentials for the USWNT head coaching job.

Lloyd called herself “a definite no” given her lack of coaching licenses and experience. Brandi Chastain also said she is “not ready” this time around, but she said she would “love to lead this national team some time in the future.”

Former goalkeeper Briana Scurry did not throw her hat into the ring as a head coaching candidate. But when asked if she would be up for a position with U.S. Soccer, Scurry did not say no. “I would definitely consider it,” she told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

All of the above players also offered their take on what they want to see in the next head coach, as have current USWNT players, including Christen Press, Tobin Heath and Andi Sullivan.

“You need somebody, a leader, with a keen understanding of the system that is going to be played, how to implement the system, and which players are best for the system,” Heath said. “That doesn’t mean: Who are the best players? Who’s scoring the most goals? Who’s everyone talking about? It’s not that at all.”

Aug. 19: Casey Stoney remains ‘very happy’ with San Diego Wave

The San Diego Wave head coach joked about being floated as a candidate because of her gender amid a debate over whether the next USWNT head coach should be a woman. But she didn’t offer much beyond that, only saying that she is happy in her current role with the Wave.

“I think there’s people that will go into that role and do very well,” she said. “I’m very happy where I am. I’m at a club that’s building something very special. I’m invested in my players and I will stay invested in my players.”

Aug. 19: Australia’s Tony Gustavsson downplays rumors

A former USWNT assistant under Jill Ellis, Gustavsson led the Matildas to the 2023 World Cup semifinal in their home country. And in the immediate aftermath of the tournament, he seemed committed to the future of the Australia program, though that could change if the USWNT comes calling.

“I don’t see this as an end of a journey. I see it as the beginning of a journey,” he said after Australia’s loss to Sweden in the third-place match. “But I also want to be very clear that I want to see investment now. I really do. I want to see investment and I mean like real investment that we’re serious about what we do.”

Gustavsson is under contract with Football Australia until the end of Australia’s 2024 Olympics run, but Ellis tabbed him as a “strong candidate” for the USWNT opening.

Aug. 18: Sarina Wiegman has ‘no plans to leave’ England

The 53-year-old Netherlands native led England to the World Cup final, where the Lionesses lost 1-0 to Spain. When asked about the USWNT job, she reiterated the details of her current contract.

“I have a contract until 2025,” Wiegman said. “I’m really enjoying my job, and I have the impression that people still like me doing that job. I have no plans to leave.”

The English Football Association plans to reject any approaches from rival countries interested in the manager, CEO Mark Bullingham said.

Aug. 16: Lluís Cortés linked to USWNT opening

The former head coach of FC Barcelona Femení, he is stepping down as coach of the Ukrainian women’s national team at the end of August upon the expiration of his contract. He had been in conversations with some NWSL clubs, per The Athletic, but Relevo has reported that he also had been contacted by U.S. Soccer.

Aug. 7: Laura Harvey: USWNT head coach is ‘top job in the world’

Even before Andonovski’s resignation, the OL Reign head coach was asked about a potential USWNT opening. She was on the shortlist for the job in 2019 before Andonovski was selected as Ellis’ successor, and she worked as a head coach at the developmental levels while also serving as an assistant coach to the senior team in 2020 and 2021.

And while she called the OL Reign her priority, she also labeled the USWNT head coaching position as “probably the top job in the world.”

“I enjoyed my time at U.S. Soccer. That’s no doubt,” she said. “The U.S. women’s national team is probably the top job in the world, if not a top three job in the world. That’s just reality. And if my name is anywhere near it, then that’s an honor.”

The search for the next head coach of the U.S. women’s national team includes three names at the top of the shortlist, The Athletic’s Meg Linehan reported Friday.

OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey, who also was among the finalists in 2019, is one of them. She is joined by Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson and Juventus women’s head coach Joe Montemurro. While other candidates still may be in consideration, these three are the top contenders, sources told The Athletic.

Vlatko Andonovski stepped down as head coach of the USWNT in August after a disappointing finish at the 2023 World Cup. U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker set a target deadline of December for Andonovski’s replacement, with Twila Kilgore serving as the interim head coach.

Just Women’s Sports breaks down the three top candidates.

Laura Harvey, OL Reign

A longtime NWSL head coach, Harvey is preparing for OL Reign’s NWSL semifinal match against the San Diego Wave on Nov. 5. While she has said her focus is entirely on OL Reign, she also described the USWNT head coaching position as “probably the top job in the world” when asked about her prospects in early August.

The 43-year-old from England worked in the U.S. Soccer system in 2020 and 2021, serving as an assistant coach for the senior national team and as a head coach at the developmental levels. But OL Reign have struggled in the postseason under Harvey, and the USWNT could choose to steer clear of the NWSL coaching pool after Andonovski’s lackluster tenure.

Tony Gustavsson, Australia

(Maddie Meyer/FIFA via Getty Images)

Gustavsson led Australia to its first-ever World Cup semifinal in 2023. The 50-year-old from Sweden also has experience with the USWNT, serving as an assistant coach under Jill Ellis during the 2015 and 2019 World Cup title runs. After the Matildas’ success at the most recent World Cup, Ellis argued that Gustavsson should be a “strong candidate” for the USWNT opening.

Yet Gustavsson likely would not relocate to the United States, which could affect his prospects, sources told The Athletic. Crocker has said he wants the next head coach to be a hands-on presence within U.S. Soccer, including at its Chicago headquarters.

Joe Montemurro, Juventus

(Juventus FC via Getty Images)

Montemurro, 54, started his coaching career on the men’s side in his native Australia, then shifted to women’s clubs. He left his home country for the Arsenal women’s head coaching job in 2017, and he led the Gunners to the Women’s Super League title in the 2018-19 season. In 2021, he joined Italian club Juventus as its head coach, and the team is in second place in the Serie A standings to start the 2023-24 season.

Despite his strong club résumé, Montemurro brings no experience at the international level, which could hurt his chances for the USWNT job.