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Controversial Rule Interpretation Sparks Chaos in NWSL Expansion Draft

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Expansion Draft Week in the NWSL is here, with the main event on Friday, Dec. 15. However, the language of the draft rules is causing a problem for teams trying to trade for protection. The deadline for final trades and transactions is Dec. 12, followed by each team’s lists of protected and unprotected players due at 2 p.m. There are two teams picking on Friday – Bay FC and Utah Royals FC. They will each pick up to 12 players total, and the rest of the teams have to designate their players as protected or unprotected. There are some players exempt from this process, and players may not be available due to injury, retirement, loan, etc.

The rules for this year differ from the rules for the last expansion draft in 2021, but there is one key difference between these two drafts. Teams also have to designate any reason why a player might not be available to play next season. Bay FC and the Royals will also receive compensation numbers and contract terms for all unprotected players in the expansion draft.

The wrinkle in the rules this year is that each existing team may lose no more than two unprotected players in the expansion draft. This means that a team could still lose two players even if they have traded with one of the two expansion teams.

As of Sunday, Orlando Pride is the only team to have pulled off double expansion draft protection. Other teams are still without leadership on their sporting side, whether that’s a head coach or a general manager. Teams are also carrying the most risk into Friday’s expansion draft are Kansas City, North Carolina, Louisville, and San Diego. There’s zero incentive for any team to not seek protection — and every reason for all the teams to be closely watching what goes down on Friday.

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Photo credit theathletic.com

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