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NWSL draft: Chicago Red Stars to lead way with 3 first-round picks

CHICAGO — This year’s National Women’s Soccer League draft will have an early and frequent taste of its host city: The Chicago Red Stars. 

The Red Stars, who finished fourth in league standings last season, will try to fortify their roster even more with three picks in the first round. They’ll open the draft with the first overall pick and then add the sixth and the seventh picks, barring any trades.

Utah Royals FC, who joined NWSL last year with most of FC Kansas City’s old roster, initially had the first-overall pick, but traded to Chicago in the deal that brought them Christen Press. Utah won’t have a pick until the middle of the third round, with No. 23 overall.

NWSL reigning champion, the North Carolina Courage, will look to stockpile even more talent with two first-round picks (Nos. 5 and 9).

The only team without a pick is the Seattle Reign. For now, anyways. Seattle’s absence is not expected to hold. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski is famous for his draft-day wheeling and dealing.

On the players side, things have been slightly more hectic. College players had until 4 p.m. ET Wednesday (a mere 20 hours before the draft is set to start) to decide whether they’re declaring. This was a new rule this year for the league, as it just began allowing underclassmen to leave school early and put their names in the draft.

In this Aug. 31, 2018, file photo, United States’ Tierna Davidson shoots against Chile during the second half of an international friendly soccer match, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Stanford’s Tierna Davidson was one of the biggest names who waited until the last day possible to announce a decision. The United States women’s national team defender has a year of eligibility remaining, but Wednesday night NWSL confirmed she entered the draft pool and is eligible to be selected.

From the list of players who had officially entered their names, there are several to watch. The first goalkeeper taken will likely be Georgetown’s Arielle Schechtman. She’s been the Big East Goalkeeper of the Year two years in a row, and she allowed seven goals in 23 matches this year. She was first in the NCAA in shutouts (15), goals-against average (.296) and save percentage (.920, with 80 saves this year).

Several players could come out of the southern California region: Two (Ally Prisock and Leah Pruitt) from USC and Hailie Mace from UCLA. Mace got her first U.S. Women’s National Team call-up in 2018 and has played both forward and defender for her college team. Prisock collected 90 career starts on the back line at USC, while Pruitt added 12 goals and nine assists this year (leading the Pac-12 in game-winning goals with six).

Another big name to watch is Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, the forward out of Tennessee. She appeared in 12 matches for Jamaica during World Cup qualifying, where she racked up 19 goals for her national team.

This year’s draft will mark the beginning of NWSL’s record-setting seventh season. You can watch a live stream of the entire draft on Pro Soccer USA or via nwslsoccer.com, the league’s YouTube channel and the NWSL app. It starts at noon ET Thursday.

DRAFT ORDER:

1st Round

1. Chicago Red Stars
2. Sky Blue FC
3. Sky Blue FC
4. Washington Spirit
5. North Carolina Courage
6. Chicago Red Stars
7. Chicago Red Stars
8. Washington Spirit
9. North Carolina Courage

2nd Round

10. Sky Blue FC
11. Sky Blue FC
12. Houston Dash
13. Houston Dash
14. North Carolina Courage
15. Chicago Red Stars
16. Houston Dash
17. Portland Thorns FC
18. Houston Dash

3rd Round

19. Sky Blue FC
20. Washington Spirit
21. Houston Dash
22. Houston Dash
23. Utah Royals FC
24. Chicago Red Stars
25. Orlando Pride
26. Chicago Red Stars
27. Utah Royals FC

4th Round

28. Sky Blue F
29. Washington Spirit
30. Orlando Pride
31. Washington Spirit
32. Utah Royals FC
33. Chicago Red Stars
34. Sky Blue FC
35. Portland Thorns FC
36. North Carolina Courage

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