2023 NWSL Mock Draft – Version 2.0

USC Midfielder Croix Bethune, 2023 NWSL Draft Prospect (Courtesy @croixbethune on Instagram)


The college soccer season has ended (congratulations to UCLA) and the new post-season Dossier is out, so let’s celebrate with another 2023 NWSL mock draft! We have a few new faces on the mock draft crew this time around, so let’s get to some introductions before the first pick.

Meet your 2023 NWSL mock draft GM’s:

Representing Gotham FC – Gary Gibson: Soccer Over Gotham podcast host and producer (follow @garygibson13 and @overgothampod on Twitter).

Representing the Chicago Red Stars – Gianna Belcastro: Founder of Women’s Sports Matter (follow @wsportsmatter and @giannabelcastro on Twitter and check out the podcast here).

Representing the Kansas City Current – J.J. Post: College soccer beat writer for the Observer (the Notre Dame student newspaper), buckys5thquarter.com, and SoccerDossier.com as well (follow @jayjaypost on Twitter)

Representing the Houston Dash – Justin Pacheco: Houston and Gotham FC superfan (follow @justinpacheco19 on Twitter).

Representing Racing Louisville – Mickey Alfano: Mickey Mics Up podcast host and co-founder and editor of Women’s Sports Exchange (follow @mickey_alfano and @wsportsexchange on Twitter).

Representing OL Reign – Oscar Villanueva: OL Reign fan and draft enthusiast (follow @soriavillanueva on Twitter).

Round One

1.01 – Gotham FC – Emily Madril (BK H├Ącken FF, formerly at Florida State) – D

Pro ready and already under contract with the NWSL. Two of Gotham FC’s center backs are 35 or older. She fits what the new coach wants in getting every player into the attack and this builds a future pairing with Kelly Ann Livingstone.- @overgothampod

1.02 – Orlando Pride – Michelle Cooper (Duke) – F

Cooper is our first early declare this year, and should challenge Madril for the top spot in the draft. Orlando happily selects the Duke Sophomore after her massive 19 goal, 11 assist season.

1.03 – Orlando Pride – Maya Doms (Stanford) – M

Orlando needs an attacking midfielder to spell Marta during the World Cup break and take over when she leaves, Maya Doms fits that bill.

1.04 – Racing Louisville – Tori Hansen (North Carolina) – D

Defense has been a weaker spot for Racing Louisville. Hansen has been solid for UNC, starting every game for them this season. She has the ability to attack, scoring 8 goals in 2022, including a crucial one against Florida State to help get UNC to the college cup. She would be able to hold it down defensively for Racing – @mickey_alfano

1.05 – Angel City FC – Croix Bethune (USC)– M/F

Angel City pounces on Bethune, one of the best attacking midfielders available in the draft this year. 26 career goals and 23 career assists, to go along with a substantial amount of experience on US youth national teams.

1.06 – North Carolina Courage – Jordan Brewster (West Virginia) – D

Same pick, two drafts in a row. With plenty of attacking talent available and multiple first round picks, the Courage opt for the top center back on the board in Brewster to help reinforce a back line that allowed 33 goals last year.

1.07 – Chicago Red Stars – Maricarmen Reyes (UCLA) – M

Chicago is lacking in terms of midfield. Adding star power here with Maricarmen can help bolster their midfield. – @giannabelcastro

1.08 – Houston Dash – Reyna Reyes (Alabama) – D

Mexican International, Reyes is someone who can play defensively or in the middle. Her skillset would help improve a Houston defense that looked less than convincing in 2022. – @justinpacheco19

1.09 -North Carolina Courage – Penelope Hocking (Penn State) – F

I don’t believe Hocking falls this far down the board, but the Courage can’t pass up a player of her caliber if she does. Over 60 career goals and more than 30 career assists, a team should look to trade up for Hocking if she falls out of the top 5.

1.10 – Kansas City Current – Jayde Riviere (Michigan) – D

I’ll preface this pick with a note on strategy: Kansas City has eight picks this draft. As such, at some point, I’ll probably be picking a player from every position, so I’m simply drafting on pure value. On that note, how often do you get to draft someone who played in an Olympic gold medal game with the 10th pick? Riviere is a potential gamebreaker at fullback, a position where elite talent is hard to come by. Want to know just how vital Riviere was to UM over the last four years? The two seasons she played 500+ minutes the Wolverines made two tournament runs and lifted a Big Ten title. The two years she was limited or out for the season? UM missed the tournament entirely. -@jayjaypost

1.11 – North Carolina Courage – Summer Yates (Washington) – M

North Carolina adds an attacking midfielder to support its growing list of talented strikers. Yates has been named Pac-12 All Conference four times, and has been on several US youth national teams throughout, and before, her time at Washington.

1.12 – Portland Thorns – Alexa Spaanstra (Virginia) – F

The Thorns are going to need the reinforce their front line with Sophia Smith getting ready for a World Cup year. Spaanstra can play on the wing along side Morgan Weaver or provide starting caliber talent behind Yazmeen Ryan.

Round One Recap:

It seems the post College Cup hype train has arrived for Tori Hansen and Maricarmen Reyes, both players now find themselves in round one after being significantly lower in our last mock. I continue to be surprised at the fall of top goal scorers in this draft. Penelope Hocking is down to #9 here, and Nicole Douglas finds herself in round 2. North Carolina should have a lot of leverage with three first round picks, if any goal needy teams come calling.

Round Two

2.01 – Gotham FC – Messiah Bright (TCU) – F

Gotham struggled to score goals last season. With leading striker Onumonu heading to the world cup, Gotham needs depth. Fits the type of player the new coach wants in a #9 – @overgothampod

2.02 – Chicago Red Stars – Lauren DeBeau (Michigan State) – M

Another midfielder! DeBeau was an important part of MSU’s Big 10 tourney run. She was named as a second team all-american by the United Soccer Coaches. She is listed as a midfielder, but has played really well up front as well. Can complement Mal Pugh in terms of speed. All around good attacking player. -@giannabelcastro

2.03 – Kansas City Current – Jenna Nighswonger (Florida State) – F

Nothing says pro-ready like four years of consistent production at the top level. You’d be hard pressed to find a player who fits that description better than Nighswonger, who’s had 14+ points and 5+ assists every season dating back to her rookie year in 2019. The most promising part? Her 2022 campaign was her best yet, notching 16 assists (leading all active seniors). Per InStat, her 39 chances created also led all seniors. Her comfort playing either through the middle or out wide will likely be enticing to teams as well. -@jayjaypost

2.04 – Racing Louisville – Natalie Viggiano (Wisconsin) – M

Viggiano was solid for Wisconsin, starting all 19 games while leading the team in shots on goal. She added 6 goals for the Badgers which put her in second on the team. She would be able to help Racing attack while holding a solid position in the midfield.- @mickey_alfano

2.05 – Racing Louisville – Ally Schlegel (Penn State) – F

While Racing has a solid grouping of forwards, with Nadia Nadim tearing her ACL at the end of the season, finding a solid forward would be super crucial to help their goal scoring efforts. Ally led the Big 10 in goal scoring, scoring 15 goals in the 27 games she started in. It was her best goal scoring season and I think she could be a great addition to the team. -@mickey_alfano

2.06 – Kansas City Current – Izzy D’Aquila (Santa Clara) – F

Few players can find the back of the net like D’Aquila, whose 19 goals in 2021 tied for second in the nation and first among non-mid major players. But she’s also more than willing to do the dirty work of leading the line, with InStat ranking her in the top ten of attacking challenges won in 2022. Perhaps most impressively, despite standing just 5’7, D’Aquila is one of just 19 players in InStat’s database to have won more than 100 arial challenges last season. Only two other forwards were listed among those 19- and both were 5’10 or taller. And her underlying numbers match up to her impressive counting total, with InStat having her leading the entire country in xG generated by a wide margin. -@jayjaypost

2.07 – Chicago Red Stars – Samantha Chang (South Carolina) – M

Guess what, it’s another midfielder! Chang was an important part of the South Carolina squad this past season. She scored 2 goals this year and had 1 assist as well, but she is mainly defensive minded in terms playing. She also has experience with the Canadian youth national team and has 1 cap for the senior team. -@giannabelcastro

2.08 – Houston Dash – Sunshine Fontes (UCLA) – F

2022 saw Fontes blossom into the player that we’re used to seeing. She scored a personal record-high of 11 goals and 8 assists this season. Despite her track record of injuries, Fontes is someone that can bring competition to a young Houston forward line. If she is given time to develop at the pro level, this pick could seem like a steal for Houston. – @justinpacheco19

2.09 – Orlando Pride – Jyllissa Harris (South Carolina) – D/M

Harris can contribute along the backline or in the midfield, and with over 100 career starts on her college resume, Orlando lands a consistent performer.

2.10 – Houston Dash – Jessica De Fillipo (Arkansas) – M

Who said you can’t ever have too many midfielders or forwards? Canadian International De Filippo, has a lot to prove at the next level. She recorded 12 goals and 8 assists this past season. While Houston would have to use an international roster spot on her, she can fill in the gap for internationals that will be gone at the WWC. – @justinpacheco19

2.11 – Kansas City Current – Nicole Douglas (Arizona State) – F

Though she hasn’t had the chance to prove herself under the blue blood spotlight like some of the other players taken in this draft, Douglas has made no small mark on PAC12 soccer over the last five years. Double digit goal totals in each of her last three seasons speak to such an impact. And while selecting Douglas may require the use of an international slot, her well-rounded game (she’s a quality dribbler and ball progressor in addition to a natural goal scorer) and positional versatility (she has experience at both center forward and attacking midfield) makes her a quality addition to any squad. -@jayjaypost

2.12 – Portland Thorns – Heather Payne (Florida State) – D/M

Portland adds Payne behind Natalia Kuikka at right back with their selection here. The Irish international played significant minutes for Florida State and was able to contribute early on in her career, logging 1779 minutes as a freshman.

Round Two Recap:

The forward depth is evident this year in the second round. Nighswonger, Douglas and Bright have a real chance of being first round selections. De Fillipo finds herself in the second round after not being in the last mock, given a strong tournament performance.

Round Three

3.01 – Orlando Pride – Grace Yochum (Oklahoma State) – M

Yochum is one of my personal favorite midfielders in this class. Not quite as tall as Taylor Kornieck, but a suitable replacement as an imposing offensive minded midfielder. A five time conference All American with a few years in the US youth national team system, Yochum provides great value here in round three.

3.02 – Washington Spirit – Anna Podojil (Arkansas) – F

Washington needs help defensively, but with Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch both potentially being on a World Cup squad, the front line needs reinforcing as well. Podojil can play as a true #9 or on the wing, and her 119 career points (45 goals, 29 assists) show her strong chance creation ability.

3.03 – Orlando Pride – Mykiaa Minniss (Washington State) – D

Minniss has started 92 games at Washington State, a program record. The four time All PAC12 performer made the preseason MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List and is one of the top center backs in the class. Orlando lucks out getting the 5’11” defender here in the third.

3.04 – Racing Louisville – Delaney Graham (Duke) – D

Graham had incredible stats with Duke, starting 103 out of 105 games played. She knotted seven assists on the year and played the most minutes for any blue devil to date. Although there is a solid RB for racing in Emily Fox, having someone to learn and fill in when Fox is out who has proved she can play long consistent minutes will be key.- @mickey_alfano

3.05 – Orlando Pride – Rebecca Jarrett (Virginia) – F

Jarrett may or may not be declaring for the draft after a serious knee injury cut her 2021 season short, and impacted her 2022 production. But I won’t be leaving her off of any mock draft on this site, just because the upside is too great. We haven’t been able to put up any highlights this year, but luckily we still have hers from last season, check them out over on the YouTube channel.

3.06 – North Carolina Courage – Clara Robbins (Florida State) – M

Robbins went 4th overall in our last mock, so seeing her down here is a surprise. The 7th year senior is most likely on a discovery list somewhere, but if she registers for the draft, look to see her name called earlier than round three.

3.07 – Racing Louisville – Kayla Fischer (Ohio State) – F

Fischer is a pick I think will go under people’s radar but she had a stellar season for Ohio State scoring 8 goals and netting 3 assists, a collegiate high for her in her senior season. She even scored a hat trick in a 6-1 win over Illinois in the latter half of their season. She was key in helping the Buckeyes make it to the NCAA tournament. I think she would be a great addition to the Racing side because she can create chances and score goals.- @mickey_alfano

3.08 – OL Reign – Alexia Delgado (Arizona State) – M

She could be a great addition to OL Reign’s midfield because she could be a quality back up when players like Lavelle or Quinn leave for the World Cup. -@soriavillanueva

3.09 – San Diego Wave FC – Kennedy Wesley (Stanford) – D

Wesley is fresh off of a PAC12 title winning performance with Stanford, and the 3 time All Pac12 left back stays in California, as the Wave strengthen their back line.

3.10 – Orlando Pride – Sophie Jones (Duke) – M

Orlando is taking a little bit of everything this draft, and Jones provides a defensive presence in the midfield. A former five star prospect with substantial youth national team experience and a decorated collegiate career, Orlando gets a steal here in round three.

3.11 – Kansas City Current – Ruby Diodati (Michigan State) – D

Diodati checks a lot of boxes for teams looking to add depth here later on in the draft. She has collegiate experience at virtually every backline position and also has a couple of games under her belt at defensive midfield. A comfortable passer, Diodati was a constant in the Spartans’ buildout last season and her ability with the ball at her feet could make her stand out against other backline options on teams’ boards. She’s a quality set piece taker as well, handling deliveries on balls into the box this season for Michigan State as well as penalty kick duties for Colgate before her transfer. -@jayjaypost

3.12 – Portland Thorns – Brittany Raphino (Brown) – F

In similar fashion to their first round selection, Portland needs attacking depth up front in anticipation of upcoming World Cup year. Raphino provides height and a finishing ability that was showcased during her time at Brown.

Round Three Recap –

Some big names down in the third round, three of which were first round selections in our previous mock draft. The board is still sorting itself out, and will continue to do so until we see player registrations, but it’s encouraging to see some familiar names popping up.

Round Four

4.01 – Washington Spirit – Nicole Payne (USC) – D

West Virginia transfer and current member of the Nigerian national team, the talented right back gives Washington a much needed boost on the back line.

4.02 – Kansas City Current – Emma Jaskaniec (Wisconsin) – M

A jack of all trades in the midfield for Wisconsin, Jaskaniec has bounced around between attacking and defensive midfield roles depending on what the Badgers need from her in a given moment. The definition of a hustle player, Jaskaniec has a fiery game that makes her more than capable of both escaping and applying pressure. Her impact on Wisconsin is hard to understate- she’s now directly contributed to over 40% of the team’s season goal total for three consecutive years. The Badgers record before and after Jaskaniec’s season-ending injury speaks for itself- a 10-2-2 start, followed by a 1-1-3 collapse down the stretch after she got hurt. It is worth noting that same injury makes her entry into this draft (she has a fifth year should she elect to use it) uncertain. -@jayjaypost

4.03 – Orlando Pride – Trinity Watson (Pepperdine) – D

Watson is one of the more intriguing left back prospects in the draft. Four time All WCC, the defender provides great value as a set piece taker and shot creator from the back.

4.04 – Racing Loisville – Sierra Enge (Stanford) – M

Enge was crucial for Stanford. She started every game for the last three seasons, minus one in her sophomore season. This past season she had 12 shots on goal. Enge also helped Stanford become Pac-12 champions twice during her college career, as well as a College Cup championship in 2019. She is well-rounded, having played center back and outside back during her sophomore season. She has the ability to score goals and assists often while holding down defensively for the Stanford side.- @mickey_alfano

4.05 – Orlando Pride – Cassie Hiatt (Penn State) – D

There are multiple, talented Penn State players in this years draft class, but at this point in the 4th round Orlando opts for the tallest of the bunch. The 6′ centerback had several very successful seasons at Texas Tech before transferring, and played nearly 1000 minutes this past season in Happy Valley.

4.06 – Kansas City Current – Heather Hinz (South Carolina) – GK

Time for my traditional “sure lets take a goalie in the fourth round” pick. Hinz has an exceptional all-around profile. One of InStat’s highest rated goalkeepers, Hinz racked up 17 “supersaves” in 2022 and conceded only 15 goals on 28 xG faced. Her passing tracks as plenty solid for a move up to professional ranks, and she also notched three penalty saves over course of last season. -@jayjaypost

4.07 – Chicago Red Stars – Emma Sears (Ohio State) – F

Chicago needs a shot taker. Picking up Sears with the last pick can help increase Chicago’s offense. Sears had 6 shots on goal against Maryland this season. She had 34 of her 64 total shots on target Sears scored 9 goals this season, a career high for her. -@giannabelcastro

4.08 – Gotham FC – Jadyn Edwards (New Mexico) – M

Outside of Kristie Mewis, Gotham does not have any creative midfielders. Kristie will be away with the national team. Leaving a chance for some minutes. A player that can both create and score. Shoots from distance and has a deadly free kick, 31 goals and 24 assists in her career. – @overgothampod

4.09 – San Diego Wave – Emma Regan (Texas) – M

A three time All Big12 performer, Emma comes to San Diego adding another piece to an already talented midfield. With Taylor Kornieck up front at the 10, Regan provides a more defensive option, who already has experience on the Canadian senior national team.

4.10 – OL Reign – Daniella Murguia (Georgia) – F

Murguia mad the SEC All Tournament team in 2022 after a season where she scored a career high 8 goals, and she’s already declared for the draft.

4.11 – Kansas City Current – Sydney Studer (Washington State) – M

Studer is a fascinating prospect for teams to evaluate. Her college career has been marked by a consistent changing of her role. During the 2020 COVID spring season she led Oregon State in points from the backline, and then transferred to Washington State, moved to midfield, and led the Cougars in assists. Then, in 2022, she played pretty much everywhere (a taste of her versatility: Studer lined up at left midfield against Seattle, right midfield against Denver, defensive midfield against Stanford, central midfield against Oregon State, attacking midfield against UCLA, and centerback against USC). One constant in Studer’s career: her consistency as the most arially dominant player in the PAC-12, culminating in her winning over 100 arieal duels over the course of the 2022 season at a 74% clip (per InStat). As the saying goes, you can’t teach height. Her ability to fit in almost any role and any system imaginable and willingness to engage in duels all over the field could prove an asset to the right coach. -@jayjaypost

4.12 – Portland Thorns – Ruthie Jones (Duke) – GK

With Abby Smith leaving in free agency, Portland could use some goal keeping depth. The 6′ shot stopper turned in several impressive years at Duke, capped off by two All ACC years and a starting role on the US U23 squad.

Round Four Recap –

The fourth round was full of surprises (and Emma’s, three of them were taken). Two non-Dossier players were selected, Hinz and Murguia, but the most surprising thing is the amount of talent still left after four rounds. Players like Haley Hopkins, Payton Linnehan, Aliya Diagne, and Cecily Stoute (to name a few) all remain on the board. This class was anticipated to be historically deep after seniors returned for multiple years of eligibility during the COVID years, and it hasn’t disappointed so far.

Working to cover and predict the NWSL draft earlier than it ever has been before. Make sure to check out our other articles, and The Dossier, a list of NWSL draft prospects!