By Celia Balf
When Amanda Duffy steps to the podium on January 18th in Philadelphia to announce the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft, few would be surprised if the name announced is Andi Sullivan, the talented midfielder for the 2017 National Champion Stanford Cardinal. Then again it’s a draft, and a deep one at that. So, stay tuned. Surprises happen.
The Washington Spirit hold the first pick and will be followed in the Round 1 selection order by the Boston Breakers (#2), Houston Dash (#3), Sky Blue FC (#4, #5), Washington Spirit (#6), Chicago Red Stars (#7), Portland Thorns FC (#8, #9) and the North Carolina Courage (#10).
As the big selection day draws near, and the preliminary list of draft eligible players continues to be studied, here are 11 players to watch for.
The 2018 NWSL College Draft will take place on Thursday, Jan. 18, at 10 a.m. ET.Andi Sullivan, Stanford (Midfielder)
It was a fairytale ending to Sullivan’s career at Stanford. The U.S. women’s national team midfielder suffered an ACL tear in the fall of 2016 which kept her out of the game for over a year. This season, she came back stronger than ever. She played for the U.S. women’s national team in a pair of wins over Switzerland and got to hoist the national championship trophy with Stanford. Sullivan was not on the draft’s preliminary list (released Dec. 21), but she is a clear top pick. Sullivan’s biggest strength is her ability to stay poised on the ball in the highest of pressure situations. She is a sound decision maker who reads the game well beyond her years.Savannah McCaskill, South Carolina (Forward, Midfielder)
McCaskill led South Carolina to its first College Cup and will enter the draft as the Gamecocks only three-time All-American. She finished her career with 114 points and 17 game-winning goals. Any team who gets McCaskill will benefit from not only her ability to finish, but also her distribution and strength on the ball. The MAC Hermann Trophy finalist led the SEC with nine-assists in her senior campaign.Casey Murphy, Rutgers (Goalkeeper)
Murphy had one more year left of NCAA eligibility, but has declared for the NWSL Draft. The Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year redshirted her junior season to play for the Under-20 USWNT in the Women’s World Cup, which makes her a graduating senior this year and eligible to enter the NWSL. Murphy is a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist, and two-time All-American. She stands at 6’1” and has the international experience to gear her for the competition in the NWSL.Michaela Abam, West Virginia (Forward, Midfielder, Defender)
Last year it was hard to imagine what West Virginia soccer would be like without 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy winner Kadeisha Buchanan, yet Abam continued to keep the Mountaineers on the map thanks to her 10-goal season. Abam led West Virginia to the NCAA tournament and finished her career with 42 goals and 16 assists. Abam will be an asset to any team with her pace up top and ability to either hold the ball and post-up, or run at any backline testing them 1v1.Rachel Corboz, Georgetown (Midfielder)
Corboz was named Big East Midfielder of the Year and finished the season with nine goals and 12 assists. The senior tabbed seven multi-point games and ranked second in the country in assists. Corboz was named a MAC Hermann semifinalist, becoming the seventh Georgetown player in the past eight years to be recognized with the honor. Corboz will adjust seamlessly to the NWSL; she’s technical, reads the game well and will compete with the best in the league in the midfield.Rebecca Quinn, Duke (Midfielder)
You might remember Quinn from the 2016 Rio Olympics where she helped the Canadian national team to a bronze medal, or maybe you are just getting to know the defensive midfielder for the Blue Devils after this season. Quinn redshirted last year due to injury, but this year she was impossible to miss with her ability to disrupt an attack and recover defensively. Quinn finished the season with three goals and four assists, three of those assists coming in the NCAA tournament.Indigo Gibson, California (Defender)
Center backs don’t typically go early in the draft, but if there were a player that could go in the first round, it would be Gibson. The All-America center back played every minute for the Golden Bears this season and led Cal to a 13-6-1 record. She helped the Golden Bears to a five-streak of shutouts in Pac-12 play this season and 39 shutouts in her career. Gibson is a shutdown defender who has the size, pace and skill set to see the field as a center back in the league.Imani Dorsey, Duke (Forward)
Dorsey chipped in 14 goals for the Blue Devils this season to double what she scored as a junior. The forward also added 10 assists for 38 total points in her senior campaign. After dominating the year in every possible angle, Dorsey picked up the award of USC National Scholar Athlete of the Year. Dorsey helped pace the Blue Devils attack, which ranked second nationally. Her standout season puts her on pace to make an immediate impact in the league.Gabby Seiler, Florida (Forward, Midfielder, Defender)
As an All-SEC first team player for the past three years, Seiler finished her career at Florida as one of the top-ranked midfielders in the game. Seiler transferred from Georgia after the 2014 season and sat out the 2015 season due to SEC transfer rules. Come 2016, Seiler was ready to make a splash with the Gators and started every match. Her versatility will make her a huge asset to the league. Seiler can play midfielder, center or outside back. She has experience playing at all three positions and has spent some time with the youth national teams over the past few years.Kathellen Sousa, UCF (Midfielder)
Sousa was an integral part of the UCF team this past season, joining the Knights for her senior year after spending time at Louisville and Monroe College prior. Sousa is a technical midfielder who is equally strong offensively as she is defensively. She reads the game well and, at 5’10”, she is a presence on the pitch. The Sao Vincente-Brazil native was named to the All-Southeast Region First Team, American Athletic Conference First Team and was named the AAC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year.Brianna Visalli, Pepperdine (Forward, Midfielder)
Visalli started every game for the Waves in her senior season and became the only player from a mid-major school to be named a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist this year. Visalli led her team in points (34), points per game (1.62), goals per game (.67) assists (6), game-winning goals (6) and shots (76.) Her stats speak for themselves, however it is always a treat to see mid-major programs rise the ranks with national team-caliber players like Visalli. Who knows? We could have a future Lynn Williams on our hands.