The recent National Women’s Soccer League Draft brought the usual influx of talent and excitement for teams around the league. From the somewhat surprising opening pick of Naomi Girma to San Diego (first reported by The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf) leaving Jaelin Howell for Louisville, to Gonzaga’s Jordan Thompson with the No. 50 and final pick, draft day is one in which dreams come true.
As exciting as the draft was and is, the actual process is not universally embraced around the NWSL. As the most tumultuous year in league history draws to a close, much attention has been put on player rights. The league and the NWSL Players Association are currently locked in negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) but until then, current rules offer players precious few rights. For the most part, domestic players enter the league through the draft and from there have virtually no control over their future in the league.
The draft is exciting and very American. But it would be really awesome if the NWSL had the guts to just simply…get rid of the draft and let players decide their career and employer!?
— Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly) December 18, 2021
Players being eternally tied to clubs until that club decides otherwise dates to the Reserve Clause implemented by Major League Baseball in 1879. That Draconian policy remained on the books until 1975 and its demise opened the door to the free agency boom that continues today and has reaped untold rewards for both players and clubs. Those rewards have not been enough, however, to maintain economic peace in that sport which will turn the page to 2022 in the midst of an owner-imposed work stoppage.
Smaller, fledgling leagues like the NWSL have implemented procedures that mirror the Reserve Clause under the guise that keeping costs down is paramount to league survival. The implementation of allocation money into the NWSL and the liberal ways owners have passed it back and forth, is proof that salaries do not need to be held down quite as much as they have been, but it does not answer the draft question. So is the entry draft good for business? Bad for the players? Or some combination thereof?