By: NWSL Editor
NWSL Draft History

Past No.1 overall picks, college dominance and more notables ahead of the 2024 NWSL Draft, presented by Ally

Just two weeks into the new year, the league will usher in fresh talent at the2024 NWSL Draft , presented by Ally.

Just two weeks into the new year, the league will usher in fresh talent at the 2024 NWSL Draft, presented by Ally.

A deeper dive into the history of the draft below:

Dominance at the Top

No. 1 overall picks have historically been among the league’s most notable and statistically successful players. All but one has been capped by the US women’s national team.2023 top pick forward Alyssa Thompson made an instant impact for Angel City FC, scoring a goal 11 minutes into her NWSL debut. Thomspon scored four goals in the regular season, tied for the most on Angel City’s roster, while earning Rookie of the Month, presented by Ally, for March/April before finishing the season as a finalist for 2023 NWSL Rookie of the Year, presented by Ally. She is NWSL’s first No. 1 pick to join the league out of high school. The previous three No. 1 overall selections were also among the most impactful players in the league in 2023, as San Diego Wave FC defender Naomi Girma, Portland Thorns FC forward Sophia Smith and North Carolina Courage defender Emily Fox all earned Best XI honors for the second time each. Smith, the first overall pick in 2020, already has Most Valuable Player, Championship MVP and Golden Boot honors to her name, while Girma, the first overall pick in 2022, won the last two NWSL Defender of the Year awards and is the first-ever rookie to win the award.

No. 1 overall picks from the last ten NWSL Drafts have also featured heavily on the international stage for the U.S. Women’s National Team, appearing in multiple Olympics and World Cups. Notably, four of those players helped the U.S. win its fourth World Cup title at the 2019 competition in France. The U.S. squad for the 2023 Women’s World Cup featured eight No. 1 picks, including the past four selections. Of note, only three clubs have held the No. 1 pick multiple times, including Portland Thorns FC in 2016 and 2020, the Washington Spirit in 2014 and 2018 and the Chicago Red Stars in 2013 and 2019. Expansion side Utah Royals FC currently holds the No. 1 overall pick at the 2024 event. Below is a full list of No. 1 overall draft picks.

Depth Chart

Orlando Pride forward Messiah Bright was selected with the No. 21 pick in the 2023 draft and led all NWSL rookies with six goals in 2023. In August, the TCU alumna became the first player in league history to win Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month in the same month.

Midfielder Paige Metayer went undrafted in 2023 before joining the Washington Spirit as a non-roster invitee and eventually earning a roster spot. As a rookie, Metayer started 21 matches for the Spirit, logging over 1,800 minutes and scoring three goals, tied for third among rookies. In June, the Irvine, California native earned NWSL Rookie of the Month, presented by Ally, honors and signed a three-year contract extension with the Spirit after the season ended. Taken with the 34th pick in 2015, Kansas City Current midfielder (drafted by NJ/NY Gotham FC) Lo’eau LaBonta has amassed over 100 appearances in the NWSL and earned Mastercard Best XI honors in 2022 with eight goals and four assists. The same year, defender Caprice Dydasco was selected in the third round by the Washington Spirit, and in 2021, was named Defender of the Year following five appearances on the NWSL Team of the Month. Dydasco played in every match, tallied five assists and scored her first goal during the 2021 campaign.

Success for Schools

The ACC has dominated the NWSL Draft, boasting the most picks all-time based on school attended at the time of the draft. North Carolina and Virginia lead the way for the conference with 21 selections each, followed by Duke (20) and Florida State (15), who each had three players drafted in 2023.

The Pac-12 is also well represented, as UCLA boasts the most NWSL selections of any school with 22, while Stanford has 20 picks, including four No. 1 overall selections, and USC has 14 draftees.

Other schools in the top 10 are Penn State (17 – Big Ten), Florida (11 – SEC) and Santa Clara (11 – WCC).


A league-record six goalkeepers were selected in the 2023 Draft, including No. 27 overall pick Angelina Anderson, who started for Angel City FC in the club’s first playoff appearance.

Only one keeper was selected in the 2019 and 2020 drafts, as Gotham FC selected University of Florida alumna Kaylan Marckese and Virgina Tech alumna Mandy McGlynn (now Haught) in consecutive drafts. Kansas City Current keeper AD Franch is the only keeper taken in the first round, as she was selected sixth overall by the Western New York Flash in 2013. Franch earned NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year in 2017 and 2018 with Portland Thorns FC.


  • In the 2023 Draft, Florida State had three top-ten selections, as defender Emily Madril and midfielder/defender Jenna Nighswonger went back-to-back at picks three and four, followed by midfielder Clara Robbins at nine. University of Virginia forwards Alexa Spaanstra and Haley Hopkins were the next two players off the board at picks 10 and 11. Nighswonger went on to earn NWSL Rookie of the Year, presented by Ally, honors.
  • In 2023, Penelope and Iliana Hocking became the first sisters selected in the same draft. Penelope was selected seventh overall by the Chicago Red Stars, and Iliana was selected with the No. 44 pick by NJ/NY Gotham FC.
  • Three players became the first NWSL draftee in their school’s history in 2023, including goalkeeper Jordan Silkowitz (Iowa State) and midfielders Jadyn Edwards (New Mexico) and Iliana Hocking (Arizona).
  • Alyssa Thompson is the youngest draftee in league history at 18 years and two months.
  • With Naomi Girma’s selection in 2022, Stanford University boasts four No. 1 selections in NWSL Draft history, including Andi Sullivan (2018), Tierna Davidson (2019) and Sophia Smith (2020).
  • In 2021, seven of the top 10 selections were women of color, a record in the NWSL, highlighted by No. 2 overall pick Trinity Rodman and No. 3 pick Brianna Pinto.

When is the Draft?

The 2024 NWSL Draft, presented by Ally, is set for Friday, January 12 at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET, and will be held during the United Soccer Coaches Convention at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California.

How can I watch the Draft?

Live coverage of the 2024 NWSL Draft, presented by Ally, will begin on ION Television at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET and continue until 8 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET, at which time the remainder of the draft will be available on ION Plus.

Viewers can find access to ION in their area or via streaming platform by visiting https://iontelevision.com/find-us.

Fans tuning in to the NWSL Draft outside the U.S. can watch the entirety of the event on NWSLSoccer.com.

Can I attend the Draft?

The Draft is free and open to the public. There will be general admission seating on a first-come, first-served basis.