BALTIMORE — Ally Watt was 15-years-old when the National Women’s Soccer League launched in 2013. At the time, the Colorado Springs native was debating whether she should pursue track and field or soccer for a college scholarship and eventually, as a professional career.
The NWSL starting up, then surviving, made Watt’s decision much easier, because it meant she could pursue a pro soccer career in the United States. Watt opted to go to Texas A&M, where she became a star on the college soccer pitch, scoring 49 goals in 94 games.
And on Thursday morning at the Baltimore Convention Center, Watt was part of the latest group of players to join the league through its annual college draft. The reigning two-time league champions, the North Carolina Courage, selected the forward with the sixth overall pick.
“Super excited. They’re clearly a very successful program and I like the style of play they’re playing. I think I’ll fit in well,” Watt said of joining the Courage. “I’m very excited to be part of that culture, that team, just seeing what makes them successful, and I hope to add to that.”
It wasn’t always a foregone conclusion that the Courage were going to have a pick in the first round, much less select Watt. There were a flurry of trades that happened on the floor of the convention center on draft day, and the Courage took a timeout before their pick. The team’s brass was seen talking with representatives from the Chicago Red Stars and the Orlando Pride.
Ultimately, a deal didn’t come to fruition and the Courage selected Watt. With their other three picks in the draft, the Courage selected Nebraska defender Sinclaire Miramontez in the third round, Kansas defender Addisyn Merrick in the fourth round, and Auburn midfielder Brianne Folds with the final pick in the draft.
Watt, 22, became the highest selected Texas A&M ever in the draft. This fall, she netted 16 goals and dished out seven assists, leading her team to a 14-5-3 record and a second round appearance in the NCAA tournament.
In 2019, Watt was an All-American, named SEC Forward of the Year and was a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy. She was named to the All-SEC First Team in three of her seasons with the Aggies.
Watt spent five years at Texas A&M, taking a redshirt during her sophomore year to play in the U-20 World Cup with the U.S. youth national team. Watt scored two goals in the tournament, in a group stage win over New Zealand and in a quarterfinals victory over Mexico. The U.S. fell in the semifinals to North Korea.
Among Watt’s teammates on the U-20 team were Mallory Pugh — who was traded from the Washington Spirit to Sky Blue FC on draft day — Reign FC goalkeeper Casey Murphy and UCLA product Ashley Sanchez, picked fourth overall by the Spirit on Thursday. An assistant coach on that team was Sean Nahas, who is also a member of the Courage’s coaching staff.
“I was with (Nahas) a lot for two years,” Watt said. “He’s a really great coach, so I’m excited to be with him again.”
When she was a track star in high school, Watt was a sprinter, competing in the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes, and relay races.
Much of that speed has transferred over to her playing style in soccer. She’s a pacy forward who can make her way up the pitch and into the box quickly, with or without the ball. It’s easy to compare how she plays to that of Lynn Williams or Jessica McDonald, who combined for 18 goals and nine assists for the Courage last season.
“I think I do bring a lot of speed on the field. I think that’s something they like to use,” Watt said. “Clearly, you can see who their front line is, and they use their speed really well, so I’m excited to be able to add to that.”
Whatever her role with the Courage might be, Watt is ready to make an impact as soon as training camp begins.
“I’m up for it. I’m all about being competitive,” Watt said. “I want to do what I can to make the team better. If that’s coming off the bench, starting right away – whatever it is to make this team successful, I’ll accept the role and work hard, no matter what it is.”