United States women's soccer team stars Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Kristie Mewis are among those who have been left unprotected by their teams and are available to be taken in next week's National Women's Soccer League expansion draft.
The draft, scheduled for Dec. 16, will allow expansion teams Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC to select up to nine players each from existing teams in the NWSL. Teams were allowed to protect up to nine players on their rosters, leaving the rest of the players on their rosters available to be chosen.
In addition to unprotected lists including Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns) and Mewis (Houston Dash), other U.S. national team players left unprotected include Kelley O'Hara, Andi Sullivan and Emily Sonnett of the Washington Spirit, but due to pre-draft deals they are not expected to be selected. Canadian all-time leading scorer Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns) is also unprotected.
Four NWSL teams earned full immunity in the expansion draft through a series of trades before last week's roster freeze: the Chicago Red Stars, the Kansas City Current, NJ/NY Gotham and the North Carolina Courage. Due to pre-draft trades, Angel City can't select any of OL Reign's forwards, including Rapinoe, but San Diego can. The Portland Thorns and Racing Louisville are protected from Angel City while the Spirit are protected from San Diego. The Kansas City Current, which joined the NWSL this year, are exempt from the expansion draft.
Rosters don't unfreeze until after the expansion draft on Dec. 17, but in years past, teams often engage in handshake agreements and negotiate deals before they can be finalized in order to protect players. The NWSL college draft is set for Dec. 18, which typically ushers in another round of trades among teams.