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A Look at Some of the Top Prospects of the 2023 NWSL Draft

By Tyler Trent


The 2023 NWSL Draft begins later today in Philadelphia at 6 p.m. EST! This will be the eleventh draft in league history and the talent in this year’s draft is very exciting. If you haven’t given the NWSL a try, the season starts March 25th and is shaping up to be another exciting year in women's soccer.


Coverage of the 2023 NWSL Draft will begin on CBS Sports Network, Paramount+ and CBS Sports HQ, the free 24/7 streaming sports news network, 6 to 7 p.m. EST. The draft livestream will continue on Paramount+ and CBS Sports HQ from 7 to 11 p.m. EST.


The first round of the NWSL draft will consist of 12 picks. Several trades have mixed up the order for this year’s draft including Angel City FC trading to acquire the #1 pick with clear intention to draft 18-year-old forward Alyssa Thompson, who had previously committed to Stanford when she was 15. The order for the first round of the draft is as follows: 1. Angel City FC

2. Gotham FC

3. Orlando Pride

4. Racing Louisville

5. Portland Thorns

6. North Carolina Courage

7. Chicago Red Stars

8. Houston Dash

9. North Carolina Courage

10. Kansas City Current

11. North Carolina Courage

12. Portland Thorns


While Alyssa Thompson is fully expected to be the #1 pick, this draft is filled with high potential talent that have earned their spot as professionals. Here’s a chance to get to know some of this highly regarded draft class before this evening!


Forwards


Alyssa Thompson celebrates while playing for the USA. Photo courtesy of Pro Soccer Wire.


Alyssa Thompson (Age 18 – Total Futbol Academy)

As previously mentioned, Angel City FC made a four-team trade in order to acquire the top pick in the draft from Gotham FC. Alyssa Thompson is one of the most highly touted prospects for the United States National Team and has already made her first appearances for the senior team as a 17-year-old. Previously committed to the prestigious Stanford women’s soccer team, the California native Thompson has declared for the draft and opted out of heading to college.


Messiah Bright controls the ball. Photo courtesy of TCU.


Messiah Bright (Age 23 – TCU)

Messiah Bright played five years of college soccer and really added to her resume this past season with 11 goals and 4 assists in 24 games. In her previous season, she scored 16 goals and 6 assists as well. Bright has a very consistent and strong college career and projects well as professional. Bright has also been a part of the USA U-23 National Team in 2022 and will likely be a very highly valued prospect in a draft that is filled with top quality forwards.


Penelope Hocking looks up the pitch. Photo courtesy of Penn State.


Penelope Hocking (Age 23 – Penn State)

Penelope Hocking is one of the most interesting prospects in the draft. Hocking played three seasons at USC and graduated with a computer science degree in 2022. She joined Penn State for her final season in college scoring 7 goals and adding 11 assists. In her time at USC, she became the all-time leading goalscorer with 48 goals, eventually moving that number up to 54.


Michelle Cooper runs with the ball. Photo courtesy of Lindy Brown/Duke.


Michelle Cooper (Age 20 – Duke)

While she only played two seasons in college, Michelle Cooper is likely the hottest goalscoring prospect out of the college game. Last season she scored 19 goals and added 11 assists as the Blue Devils made it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. Cooper earned First Team All-American honors in both her seasons, as well as 2022 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and the 2022 MAC Hermann Trophy. If not for Alyssa Thompson, Cooper would likely be the nailed on first pick based on talent alone and she will likely be going to Gotham at pick 2. Per InStat via JJ Post Bright converted a massive 70% of her chances this season!


Izzy D'Aquila celebrates during the College Cup. Photo courtesy of Santa Clara.


Izzy D’Aquila (Age 21 – Santa Clara)

A regular with the USA National Team as a teenager, Izzy D’Aquila continued to be a star in college scoring 50 goals in 78 appearances for Santa Clara and winning a NCAA Tournament Championship in 2020. With a high work-rate and willingness to fight for everything, D'Aquila has a chance to be a first round draft pick. She is great at creating chances for herself and her teammates as well.


Alex Spaanstra dribbles down the pitch. Photo courtesy of UVA.


Alexa Spaanstra (Age 22 – Virginia)

Another five-year college player, Alexa Spaanstra appeared in 107 games for UVA scoring 37 times and providing 34 assists. Spaanstra provides a threat from out wide as a winger compared to other highly regarded draft-eligible players that primarily played up top. Spaanstra will likely be a first round pick due to her unique profile and strong college career.


Midfield


Grace Yochum prepares to pass the ball. Photo courtesy of Oklahoma State.


Grace Yochum (Age 23 – Oklahoma State)

Appearing in 86 games for Oklahoma State and scoring 41 goals, Grace Yochum is a strong finisher with a high work-rate. Her 41 goals broke the record for Oklahoma State scoring that was previously held at 35. Yochum is a skilled player that also can play with physicality in the middle of the pitch and will add value to whatever team picks her.



Sophie Jones with her team. Photo courtesy of Duke.


Sophie Jones (Age 21 – Duke)

Sophie Jones started all 75 matches in her four-year college career. Playing both in defense and in midfield, Jones showed her versatility and fitness levels consistently throughout college. In 2022, she was part of the USA U-23 National Team. Jones would provide a team with a dependable midfield option capable of facilitating her teammates moving forward and helping to protect her backline.



Jenna Nighswonger with FSU. Photo courtesy of FSU.


Jenna Nighswonger (Age 21 – Florida State)

The left-footed attacking midfielder Nighswonger was considered an elite corner kick taker last season for the Seminoles where she scored or assisted on 11 goals from corners kicks. Nighswonger appeared in 86 games in her four-year college career scoring 19 goals and providing 34 assists, 16 of which game in her final season. Nighswonger originally intended to look for opportunities in Europe, but was a late edition to the NWSL Draft list and will likely be one of the top 5 picks in the draft.


Defenders

Jyllissa Harris with South Carolina. Photo courtesy of South Carolina.


Jyllissa Harris (Age 22 – South Carolina)

Capable of playing both centerback and in central midfield, Jyllissa Harris appeared in 107 games for South Carolina in her five years scoring 16 goals and providing 11 assists. Harris was at the core of a very successful South Carolina team in 2022 that won the SEC and made it to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament before ultimately losing in a close match against Duke. In 2022, Harris also became the record holder for all-time minutes played in NCAA Women’s Soccer surpassing Becky Sauerbrunn.


Emily Madril passes the ball. Photo courtesy of USA Today.


Emily Madril (Age 23 – Florida State/ BK Häcken)

Emily Madril gave up her final season at Florida State last year and signed a deal with the NWSL through 2025. Instead of playing her last season, she joined BK Häcken in Sweden to continue to gain experience before she would be eligible in the 2023 draft. Madril was previously considered by most to be the best talent available in the draft prior to Michelle Cooper's emergence and Alyssa Thompson's decision to forego college for the NWSL.



Tori Hansen celebrates with UNC. Photo courtesy of UNC.


Tori Hansen (Age 21 – North Carolina)

The Raleigh native had an up-and-down career to start at UNC after a very successful youth career for both club and the youth USA National Team. However, in 2022, Hansen made her mark starting all 26 games and scoring 8 goals ultimately helping lead her team to a heartbreaking second place finish in the 2022 NCAA tournament. Hansen's aerial ability and physicality will be a great value for a team in NWSL this season as she continues to develop.


Reyna Reyes poses with a Mexican flag. Photo courtesy of Alabama.


Reyna Reyes (Age 21 – Alabama)

The Mexican-American fullback was one of the most impressive players this season for a very strong Alabama team. In her four years, she played in 79 games scoring 16 goals and adding 5 assists. Reyes is capable of playing as a left back and in midfield. Reyes has been a regular with the Mexico Youth National Teams since 2016 and started receiving callups to the senior Mexico National Team in 2021. Reyes versatility make her a top option in this draft for a player with strong defensive capability and strong passing and dribbling skills as well. She is arguably the best defender available in the draft and definitely the top fullback.


Chaylyn Hubbard on the ball. Photo courtesy of TCU.

Chaylyn Hubbard (Age 23 – TCU)

Appearing in 105 games in her 5-year career at TCU, Chaylyn Hubbard is the top prospect at right back in the 2023 draft. While she wasn’t a regular goalscorer from right back, she was a very strong defender for the Horned Frogs in her career including 12 shutouts last season and 14 in the previous season.





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