NWSL Eliminates Draft Registration Requirement, Expands Eligible Athlete Pool

Washington Spirit  |   January 6, 2021
NWSL Eliminates Draft Registration Requirement, Expands Eligible Athlete Pool Featured Image

NWSL Nike Merlin soccer ball during the NWSL College Draft Baltimore 2020

Rule-change intended to maximize opportunities for athletes and clubs during pandemic-altered collegiate season

CHICAGO (January 6, 2021) – The National Women’s Soccer League announced today that its board of governors has voted to expand the draft-eligible pool of collegiate athletes ahead of the 2021 NWSL Draft by eliminating the registration requirement for seniors, deeming all “senior” collegiate athletes eligible for the draft.

Due to the pandemic and the resulting fall 2020 collegiate women’s soccer season being delayed until the spring of 2021, and in order to ensure that the most possible athletes have the opportunity to enter the NWSL Draft and play in the league this year, the league has waived the requirement for certain collegiate athletes to register for the draft and automatically made eligible all Division I players who exhausted three years of intercollegiate soccer eligibility prior to the 2020-2021 academic year. Clubs will hold the rights to each athlete selected in the draft for a period of time as set by the league.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have consistently made the adjustments necessary to ensure that the best women soccer players in the world have the opportunity to play in the best women’s soccer league in the world, “ said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird. “By modifying our draft eligibility requirements, and removing barriers during these unprecedented times, we’ll ensure our clubs have a more expansive opportunity to identify the best collegiate athletes for their teams and enable those athletes to join the NWSL when it makes sense for them.”

In addition to those athletes deemed automatically eligible, registration remains an option and necessity for any and all athletes who meet the league’s eligibility requirements, regardless of remaining colleagiate eligibility, who wish to enter NWSL in 2021, and are not captured in the eligibility change described above.

“The last year has obviously been disruptive and difficult for student-athletes as they navigate their future plans,” said NWSL Managing Director of Competition and Player Affairs Liz Dalton. “This change is a reflection of that fact and will help all of us move forward in a positive direction.”

The rights to any players selected in the NWSL Draft will be assigned to the drafting team’s College Protected List until the start of the 2022 NWSL preseason. Rights to players on a team’s College Protected List are assets of the team and may be kept, waived or traded, at the team’s discretion during the Protected Period. Rights to players on a team’s College Protected List who have not been signed a standard player agreement at the end of the Protected Period will be waived.

The 2020 NWSL Draft will take place at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 and streamed live on Twitch here.

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