The National Women’s Soccer League closed out the 2021 season last month, with the Washington Spirit claiming the title. The 2021-22 offseason is now underway and the league has already seen a number of new signings and trades. The 2021 season featured some transformational moments, with NWSL players in the middle of on-going CBA negotiations and participating in demonstrations to protest abusive coaching environments to advocate for systematic change.
A historically long season, spanning 10 months, has now come to a close and the league is now looking ahead to the 2022 Expansion Draft on Dec. 16 and the 2022 NWSL Draft on Dec 18. A number of offseason moves have already occurred as the two events loom closer, and several head coaching positions are still vacant despite two clubs announcing they have filled the roles.
Let’s take a look at some trades and players who have decided to pursue soccer elsewhere this offseason on a team-by-team basis.
Angel City FC
The expansion club has already made waves since its introduction. Angel City have been built up through a primarily women-led ownership group with several other powerhouse women investors spanning across several industries. The club built up its front office staff before growing its their roster, hiring Eni Aluko as sporting director and Freya Coombe as head coach. The duo will lead the club through its first expansion draft after the franchise signed its first player, Christen Press.
- Christen Press – Forward – Player rights traded from Racing Louisville FC
- Chicago Red Stars traded defender Sarah Gorden and midfielder Julie Ertz and an international slot to Angel City in exchange for roster protection in the upcoming expansion draft
Chicago Red Stars
The team made its way to another NWSL final but came up short once again. After the loss, the Red Stars accepted the resignation of 11-year head coach Rory Dames — announced in a near-midnight release, ahead of a report from the Washington Post detailing allegations of verbal abuse and harassment from the now-former coach and once-acting general manager. The club is now in the midst of a head coaching search while beginning their offseason by trading six players across three clubs.
- Kayla Sharples, Defender – Adelaide United (Loan through March 2022) – Australia
- Chicago Red Stars traded defender Sarah Gorden and midfielder Julie Ertz and an international slot to Angel City in exchange for roster protection in the upcoming expansion draft.
- Trade Nikki Stanton to OL Reign for third-round pick in the upcoming NWSL draft.
The Dash narrowly missed out on the 2021 NWSL playoffs on a tie-breaker, losing their last game and ending their season early. The team is led by head coach James Clarkson, who is the only remaining coach in his original position from the 2021 season.
- Nichelle Prince – Forward – Contract extended through 2024
- Jane Campbell – Goalkeeper – Contract extended through 2024
Kansas City Current
The Current ended their season in last place in the table, but had a late-season surge, acquiring Kirsten Hamilton, Hallie Mace, and Adrianna Franch in midseason trades. The Current went on to play spoiler against teams in the playoff hunt while maintaining a seven-game undefeated streak at home. The franchise quickly looked ahead to 2022 and unveiled its new team name and crest.
At the conclusion of the 2021 season the club shifted roles for coach Huw Williams, who moved into a front office administrative role, and is currently conducting a search for a permanent head coach. The organization made waves to start its offseason with a trade for USWNT midfielder Samantha Mewis.
- Traded Sam Mewis to Kansas City Current for Kiki Pickett and a first-round draft pick in 2022 NWSL Draft
NJ/NY Gotham FC
The team had an impressive 2021 that included midseason administrative changes. Gotham FC introduced a new general manager in former NWSL player Yael Averbuch West, and a coaching change during the final third of the season after the departure of Freya Coombe to Angel City — marking the arrival of new coach Scott Parkinson. Through the long 10 months, the players made the 2021 Challenge Cup final, and the NWSL quarterfinals where they were eliminated after a 1-0 loss against Chicago Red Stars.
- Elizabeth Eddy – Newcastle United Jets (Loan through March 2022) – Australia
- Gaëtane Thiney – Paris Saint-Germain – Loan to Gotham FC complete for 2021 season
- Sodam Lee – South Korean international – Loan to Gotham FC completed for 2021 season
Player options declined:
- Ashlyn Harris and Ali Kreiger via Orlando Pride
North Carolina Courage
A late-season report detailed troubling allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual coercion against former head coach Paul Riley during his head coaching days with Portland Thorns FC in 2015. The scandal led to his termination from the club, and despite the off-field turmoil, Courage players ended their season with a playoff appearance in the NWSL quarterfinals. The team has made several moves already in the offseason, including a three-way trade with the Houston Dash and San Diego Wave FC. They also trraded star player Sam Mewis to Kansas City ahead of the expansion draft in exchange for Kiki Pickett and a first-round draft pick.
- Traded Sam Mewis to Kansas City Current for Kiki Pickett and first round draft pick in 2022 NWSL Draft
- Received $190,000 in allocation money and San Diego’s natural first-round draft selection in the 2023 NWSL Draft for the player rights to Abby Dahlkemper after conditions in a midseason trade with the Houston Dash were met.
The Pride got off to a hot start in 2021, going on a seven-game undefeated game streak, only to have a coaching change midseason after former Pride coach Marc Skinner left to take a position with Manchester United. The Pride fell out of playoff position before the end of the season, and have already made offseason trades. Orlando is also currently rumored to be looking to hirer longtime UCLA coach Amanda Cromwell for the head coaching vacancy.
- Traded Jodie Taylor to San Diego Wave FC in exchange for 2023 NWSL Draft natural second-round pick, natural third-round pick or Allocation Money, pending conditions met
The Reign ended their season with a semifinals appearance where they were eliminated by the Washington Spirit. Head coach Laura Harvey joined the club midseason and will remain with the club through 2023. No official word on the official status of Sarah Bouhaddi, Dzenifer Maroszan, or Eugeine Le Sommer and their future with the Reign, though the initial loan terms of the three Olympique Lyonnais players were through December 2021.
- Acquired midfielder Nikki Stanton from Chicago Red Stars in exchange for a third-round pick in the upcoming NWSL draft
Portland Thorns FC
The Thorns completed their season winning three titles (Challenge Cup, WICC, and NWSL Shield) and came up just short of the NWSL championship after being eliminated in the semifinals. The conclusion of their season also meant the departure of former head coach Mark Parsons, who left the club to pursue the head coaching position with the Netherlands women’s national team.
In the wake of on-going investigations into the club stemming from Paul Riley’s time in 2015, the franchise has hired a new general manager in former Thorns player Karina LeBlanc, and introduced their new head coach, Riahn Wilkinson. Both Canadian internationals spent time with the club as players in early years.
Racing Louisville FC
The expansion side in 2021 played to a ninth-place finish, while the franchise terminated then-head coach Christy Holly for cause midseason. Racing Louisville stated they would not keep interim head coach Mario Sanchez in the main role and would begin a search for a new head coach in the offseason.
- Acquired player rights to Christen Press in 2020 expansion draft and then traded Press to Angel City in exchange for roster protection and received Angel City’s first-round pick in the 2022 College Draft, and $75,000 in allocation money
The 2021 NWSL Championship team is currently in discussion to keep interim-head coach Kris Ward in a permanent role as head coach after taking over midseason. Former head coach Richie Burke was terminated for cause based on investigations of emotional and verbal abuse within team environments. The team has also made early moves ahead of the double expansion draft to protect their current championship winning roster.
- Traded defender Tegan McGrady, a 2022 first-round college draft pick, and an international roster spot for the 2022 season in exchange for roster protection in the expansion draft.