2024 NWSL Mock-Draft predictions, thoughts & nonsense

Nothing is harder (or more foolish) in sport than making predictions. And yet...

2024 NWSL Mock-Draft predictions, thoughts & nonsense
Reilyn Turner, Brecken Mozingo, Croix Bethune, Leillanni Nesbeth & Ally Sentnor (Left to right).

On Friday night, 12th January, 56 young players will become footballers in the United States’ National Women’s Soccer League via the draft1.

14 teams, four rounds of picks, one very long night of footy admin.

Oh, and it’s on the tele! Between 8 p.m. - 10 p.m. ET you can watch on the ION channel, with coverage then hopping over to ION Plus for the latter rounds at 10 p.m. ET. (In the USA, apologies those abroad).

So why would anyone ever try and predict something as complicated as the NWSL Draft?

Good question. I (still) believe it’s a fun exercise. And hopefully, you will too. It can be a way to learn more about players you otherwise don’t know, or confirm/frustrate beliefs on players that you track quite closely.

It could be a way to laugh at me or any other journalist who thinks they might have an idea of the league, coaches, GMs, scouts, and analysts who work in it. It’s all a bit of fun.

No one is perfect. And this mock draft will not be either. But at least it will provide some thought provocation on the madness of Friday night. If 20% of this is correct, I’d take that. Stay hydrated.

Here we go…

Key: Draft #: NWSL Club — Name of Player
School — position — appearances (goals/assists

1: Utah Royals — Brecken Mozingo

BYU — Winger/attacking-mid — 96 (36/37)

This one actually sort of feels like an open goal. So long as Utah doesn’t end up trading the number one overall pick, I would be shocked if they didn’t select the 22-year-old who grew up a stone’s throw club’s own stadium.

Head coach Amy Rodriguez and GM Kelly Cousins are still in need of an attacking playmaker and wide threat. Mozingo might be the most devastating in the draft who provides exactly that.

Such a fun player to watch, Mozingo is quick to cut in on her left foot from the right wing and rattle off shots or crosses from the edge of the box. She is top (or near top) of the class for goals, assists, xA, xG, and offensive duels won.

2: Bay FC — Ally Sentnor

UNC — Forward/attacking-mid — 48 (21/9)

Not unlike their expansion sister, Utah Royals, Bay FC are yet to add many goals to their fledgling squad. With the reports this week that the West Coasters have added creative midfielder Deyna Castellanos to their ranks, that makes more of an out-and-out forward their biggest need.

Sentnor only played two seasons in Chapel Hill, but has shined bright in that short time. Especially in 2023. Her ability to take players on and break into the box is superb. But her finishing and shot selection are even better. The Massachusettsan is also a regular for the USA U23s.

You will notice small tweaks to her feet, and body shape, as she weighs up where to put the ball. A swivel. A thwack. There is often a sudden change of angle that sends the ball past the keeper in a blistering direction.

3: TRADE — ACFC (Chicago) — Croix Bethune

Georgia — Attacking-mid — 63 (30/28)

Now this is where things could get wiggy. The Chicago Red Stars hold the number three pick in the draft but the squad is thin and has holes. So, they might be better off maximizing what they can get for this pick.

My wish casting sees Angel City (who do not have a 2024 1st Round pick or 2nd Round pick) spend a 2025 1st Round Pick, a 2025 2nd Round Pick, and $100,000, to jump up and snag Bethune. Los Angeles has a big need for a ‘number 10’ type and this is a splashy way to get it.

Talent wise Bethune has so much. She’s a genius. Her game is artistic. The runs are smart, and the vision is creative. Injuries meant the attacker missed seven games for Georgia in 2023, and eight for USC in 2022. Still, she was one of the top chance creators and assisters per90 when she was on the pitch.

4: Utah Royals — Lauren Flynn

FSU — Centreback — 79 (7/3)

With Utah adding an attacking star with their first pick, it only makes sense for them to solidify the back with pick two.

Flynn could be the most reliable player in this draft, and right up there when it comes to defensive leaders. An assured winner, the two-time National Champion was named MVP of the 2023 tournament after Florida State routed Stanford 5-1 in the final. That “1” was the only goal Flynn and her teammates conceded in the competition.

The 22-year-old has experience playing both left and right centreback. And has the 2nd-highest passes played p90 of any player in the draft, with a similarly elite 97.2% completion rate on lateral passes.

5: NC Courage — Sam Meza

UNC — Centre midfielder — 72 (7/10)

Early on in her collegiate career, the 22-year-old from Dallas was one of the most talked about young players in the U.S. youth system. While her reputation has cooled somewhat over the 2023 season, scouts and coaches will still believe in her potential.

Watching Meza play, I think what sets her apart is how she can play on the half-turn. When receiving the ball with her back facing an opponent she is highly skilled. Her passing numbers are very good but she’s not a proven goal threat or direct creator.

Meza should be an ideal addition to the possession-heavy, intricate build-up style that Courage head coach Sean Nahas likes to play. There is no doubt he will be very familiar with her game.

6: Racing Louisville — Amanda West

Pittsburgh — Forward/winger — 79 (50/31)

Louisville are an NWSL club searching for an identity. After three seasons they are yet to finish anywhere other than 9th place. Changing the culture and resetting a team’s legacy is something West knows all about from her time at Pitt. When she enrolled the school was ranked 190th, when she graduated they were 6th.

Not only does West seem like the sort of player who might gel well with Racing’s new head coach and general manager, but I also think she can help offset the departure of winger Thembi Kgatlana to UANL Tigres.

In 2023, the Canadian winger had more progressive runs p90 than any other player in the draft. Her preference is to press and make runs in behind.

PODCAST — Amanda West: A Pittsburgh record-breaker ready for the NWSL Draft

7: Washington Spirit — Savy King

UNC — Centreback — 23 (0/0)

FC Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez will become the new head coach of the D.C. club in June, but how much of his style will be implemented before his arrival? The Spirit’s draft strategy feels particularly hard to predict this year.

Style of play and squad preference aside, the Spirit needs a centreback. GM Mark Krikorian’s FSU ties mean that any of those top players are always going to be heavily linked to Washington. If Flynn is still available at seven, then there is a good chance she gets taken here.

In Flynn’s absence though, King would become a smart pick. In terms of potential, the soon-to-be 19-year-old could be the best player in this draft. Over 2,000 minutes for UNC in her debut season showed she’s ready now even if her game is still developing.

8: Bay FC — Maya Doms

Stanford — Centre midfielder/Attacking-mid — 100 (33/20)

Born and raised in Northern California, Doms to the Bay feels like easy to envison relationship.

In terms of team needs, GM Lucy Ashton has mostly filled out her defence so there’s plenty of demand for what the Stanford captain brings to the midfield. Doms has a good head on her shoulders and has a habit of showing up at big moments. As the kids say: “She has that dawg in her.”

Players coming out of Stanford also tend to be more NWSL-ready than most. In 2023, Doms’ wiley box-to-box style combined with nifty finishing will no doubt suit the league. A great dressing room presence.

9: Orlando Pride — Makenna Morris

Clemson — Right back — 80 (19/20)

Very few players in the draft had a year quite like Morris. The full back scored 10 goals and assisted five more as Clemson made history by going to their first-ever NCAA semifinal. She’s a defender!

While a goal-conversion rate of nearly 20% will not be replicable in the NWSL, Morris’ bravery on the ball and ability to get forward whenever she can are premium qualities. The modern full back in the U.S. league plays a lot like the 21-year-old from Maryland.

Orlando have hit on veteran Kylie Strom as a rock-solid choice at left back. Morris could be a starter on the opposite flank depending on whether coach Seb Hines wants to keep Haley McCutcheon as a defender or as a defensive midfielder. Her sister Maliah, also played for the Florida club last year.

NOTE: Although I haven’t predicted a trade here, if Morris is still around at the ninth pick (or lower), I think you could definitely see teams trading up to get her. Houston and Kansas City are two clubs to watch. Orlando had a great draft in 2023 and already has young players developing on their squad.

PODCAST — Maliah Morris: "Marta knows my name"

10: NC Courage — Reilyn Turner

UCLA — Forward — 79 (42/15)

Kerolin’s ACL-injury means that North Carolina is in dire need of a forward. Someone who can not only score goals - and different types of goals - but create space for others as the team shifts the ball on the floor.

Turner is so so so fun to watch, fans everywhere will be hoping their team drafts her. The 2022 National Champion is brilliant at taking a touch into space and driving the ball into good positions. A sharp-shooter too, who has a range of finishes, and likes to look for goal early.

It’s hard to find a more consistent goalscorer and striking threat than Turner in the draft. And she’s performed under pressure in big spots too.

11: Portland Thorns — Leilanni Nesbeth

FSU — Centre midfielder — 89 (15/14)

If I’m being bias, Nesbeth might be my favourite player in the draft. She’s a fascinating all-rounder in the midfield and someone who presses and counter-presses at an incredibly high level. Covers ground off the ball, creates interceptions.

The Bermudan international moved to England in her youth on an academic and cricket scholarship before switching to football and briefly joining Bright and Hove Albion. A buoyant personality and voice in the dressing room for FSU.

The Thorns midfield is strong, and Nesbeth’s profile isn’t too far away from Rocky Rodriguez, but I think this is about taking the best player available. And could be another spot where a trade occurs.

12: San Diego Wave — Bea Franklin

Arkansas — Centre midfielder — 81 (16/12)

Player comparisons can be lazy, but Franklin has a real Sam Mewis vibe (oh, how we miss her on the pitch). She is also the tallest midfielder in the draft at 5’11”.

Franklin’s physicality and penchant to pop up in the box and score by arriving late from deep positions, or at the back post, really sets her apart. If used the right way, she feels extremely ready to produce in the NWSL.

I feel good about this one, as we’ve seen Wave head coach Casey Stoney be very canny when it comes to building physical, competitive teams that like to win duels and be effective on set pieces. Could be a fun flick-on target for Jaedyn Shaw.

Fun fact: Franklin is also currently a member of the Arkansas women’s basketball squad while she finishes off her senior year.

13: Washington Spirit — Landy Mertz

Pittsburgh — Winger — 63 (15/26)

Once again, I don’t feel like I have a good read on Krikorian or the Spirit. And this one might feel a bit of an outsider pick, but Mertz’s data is strong. She’s right behind Mozingo for a lot of similar statistics when it comes to creating chances from wide areas. Whether that is crossing, or cutting in. The winger from Pittsburgh flies.

In the NWSL, there tends to be a bias toward players from more prestigious schools (such as UNC, Florida State, Stanford). Even if individually their numbers don’t pop, it’s best to go for a top-scouted young player who has had the most collective success.

In a very competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, Mertz was a star. Even for a smaller school. Maybe we don’t see Mertz until the second or third round, but she’s one to watch.

14: TRADE — Houston Dash (Gotham) — Maycee Bell

UNC — Centreback — 77 (7/4)

And finally, one more twist in the tale. Despite having the league’s best statistical defence in 2023, Houston will be missing multiple key defenders from their backline in 2024. That puts getting a promising but also ready-to-start centreback or fullback right at the top of the Dash’s needs list.

My outside prediction is that Houston, who have the 19th overall pick, swap their high 2nd Rounder plus $50,000-$75,000 for Gotham FC’s selection at the very end of the 1st Round.

Bell is calm off the ball, with confident and energetic feet on the ball. She has been a constant at UNC in her four seasons there and has played in a back-three that new Dash head coach Fran Alonso has often utlized.

An aerial patroller of the box at 5’11” — I like Bell to mirror the sort of leadership and heading qualities that Katie Lind has brought to Texas. With quite a few talented centrebacks in the draft, I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston also has the pass-happy Talia Staude (Virginia), the rock-solid Hannah Anderson, or the relentless Kennedy Wesley on their draft board.

  1. If you’re unfamiliar, the draft is exactly what it sounds like. A selection process whereby one by one, each club in the NWSL takes turns adding a player to its squad lists. The order of the list is based on the league table from the previous season.

    However, because draft picks are tradable assets, the selection order is not always in its natural state. Furthermore, there are often plenty of trades on the very night of the NWSL Draft as teams scramble up the order to get a player they want or send trade picks off to another team in exchange for a more veteran player in the league.

  2. I have gone with the NCAA official statistics, but other sources can vary slightly. All other stats are taken from Wyscout.