NWSL 101: How National Women's Soccer League teams were formed

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Last Friday, April 5, all eight inaugural National Women's Soccer League teams finalized their respective rosters.  After a period of national team allocation, a college draft, a supplemental draft, free agent signings, discovery signings and more, below is a FAQ that explains just how the teams were able to construct the roster and who ended up where with Thorns FC.

How many teams are in the NWSL?
There are eight teams playing in the NWSL in 2013. Joining Portland Thorns FC are the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City, Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit, and Western New York Flash.

How many games will each team play?
Each team will play a total of 22 games. The clubs will each host 11 home games, and travel for 11 road games.

How many players are on a roster?
The training camp rosters were capped at 32 players. Regular season rosters must carry a minimum of 18 players, and a maximum of 20 players.

How are the rosters filled out?
The process of filling out final rosters goes through many steps. First, teams are allocated national team players from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Next, teams go through the NWSL College Draft, a free agency period, the NWSL Supplemental Draft, and the signing of Discovery Players.

How are national team players allocated?
On January 11th, the NWSL announced the allocation of 55 national team players, including 23 from the United States, 16 from Canada, and 16 from Mexico. The players were evaluated on their technical ability by a panel of experts familiar with the player pools. Next, the players submitted their desired destinations, and the teams submitted their player preferences. Based on all of these factors, the players were assigned numerical values on quality and desirability, and then allocated accordingly.

Each team received three U.S. national team players, except the Western New York Flash who received two. Additionally, each team received two players from the Canadian national team and two from the Mexican national team.

The Thorns were allocated Alex Morgan (USA), Rachel Buehler (USA), Tobin Heath (USA), Christine Sinclair (CAN), Karina LeBlanc (CAN), Luz Saucedo (MEX), and Marlene Sandoval (MEX). After the allocation process, the Mexican federation removed Saucedo from the national team pool. Sandoval was removed from the roster due to an injury.

U.S. Soccer, the Canadian Soccer Association, and the Federation of Mexican Football will subsidize the salaries of their allocated players in the NWSL.

How many players were selected in the NWSL College Draft?
The NWSL College Draft was held in Indianapolis, Indiana, on January 18, 2013. There were four rounds, each with eight picks. Each team in the NWSL got to pick once per round, with the draft order based on how well each team did in allocation.

The Thorns picked eighth in each round, selecting Kathryn Williamson (Florida), Nicolette Radovcic (Central Florida), Amber Brooks (North Carolina), and Roxanne Barker (Pepperdine).

How long was the free agency window?
Following the NWSL College Draft on January 18th, the teams were allowed to sign undrafted players until January 31st, 2013. Initially, each team was allowed to sign four additional players during free agency. The Chicago Red Stars, Seattle Reign FC, Washington Spirit, and Western New York Flash were each granted a fifth free agent spot for reasons ranging from season-ending injury to player unavailability.

The Thorns used their free agent signings on Becky EdwardsAllie LongNikki Marshall, and Nikki Washington.

Who was eligible for the NWSL Supplemental Draft?
Any player that wasn’t selected in the NWSL College Draft, and was done with her college eligibility, was eligible for the NWSL Supplemental Draft. The draft took place on February 7th, 2013, and lasted six rounds.

The Thorns selected eighth in each round. The team selected Tina Ellertson (Washington), Angie Kerr (Portland), Michele Weissenhofer (Notre Dame), Marian Dougherty (Santa Clara), and Jessica Shufelt (UConn). The Thorns passed in the final found.

What is a Discovery Player?
A Discovery Player is any player that was not drafted in the NWSL College Draft or Supplemental Draft, or a player that was “discovered” domestically or internationally, who is not on a NWSL roster and whose rights are not owned by an NWSL team. This includes players that are currently playing for a European or other foreign club.

How do teams claim and sign a Discovery Player?
The rights to Discovery Players are determined by date of submission. The NWSL team that first submitted a claim to a player has the first rights to signing that player. Should that team decide not to sign the player in a timely manner, that player can sign with another team. 

The Thorns FC Discovery Players are: Jazmyne AvantDanielle Foxhoven, Adelaide Gay, Emilee O’Neil, Meleana Shim, and Courtney Wetzel