The NWSL college draft is set for Thursday, to be streamed live on YouTube and Facebook. There is plenty of quality in this draft class and some teams have scooped up first-round draft picks to use the draft as their primary way to re-build. Here is what every team needs to look for.
Brad Smith/isiphotos.com(courtesy of NWSL)
North Carolina Courage: Fullbacks
The Western New York Flash are no more, but the squad is expected to transition fully to the North Carolina Courage. The key word here is "expected." It's still not entirely clear which players may not want to or be able to make the move. But the Flash won the championship last season with a speedy, dynamic attack. Where they can shore things up is on the back line by adding some depth, particularly because Jaelene Hinkle hasn't signed yet.
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Washington Spirit: Goalkeeper depth
Kelsey Wys, the Spirit’s starting goalkeeper, tore her ACL and won’t return until at least May, but perhaps later. Stephanie Labbe is a great starting option - she started for Canada en route to a bronze medal in Rio - but rumors have hinted she may be on the move. The Spirit don’t have any other options and need some quickly.
Orlando Pride: Forward or attacking mid
Although Alex Morgan is expected to return in the summer after Lyon's season in France finishes up, they could use some forward depth to ensure they don't miss her too much while she's away.
The Pride could also look to get Morgan, or whoever is up top, better service. A playmaker who can distribute and set the attack could be worth consideration.
Getty ImagesAlex Menendez
Chicago Red Stars: wide midfielder
The Red Stars are solid pretty much across the field. They have good strikers in Christen Press and Sofia Huerta, the spine of the formation is strong with Vanessa DiBernardo and Danielle Colaprico, and their defense was one of the strongest last season. But they could create more from wide spaces and a quality midfielder who is comfortable along the flanks could add more dimension to their attack.
Portland Thorns: Right back
What do you get for the club that seems to have everything? The Thorns went out of their way to bring in top class players last season, and they dominant, winning the Supporters Shield. With Kat Williamson's retirement, they have an opening at full back, especially at right back, that they need to make sure is taken care of. They may not even attempt to address the position in the draft, but they could go for depth there.
Houston Dash: Fullbacks
Defense has got to be a big concern for Houston after the 2015 they had. With no Olympics or World Cup, they have to assume their attack will be fully stocked with national team players -- Kealia Ohai, Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian -- sticking around the full season. But defense was a concern throughout last season. They've made some offseason moves already, but they should make sure they have the depth to remain solid no matter what happens, particularly in the fullback spots.
FC Kansas City: Centerback or right back
The Blues look a little thin in the striking force -- although Shea Groom carried the load impressively well last season -- but they should get some reinforcements soon: Amy Rodriguez seems ready for a return now that she's been called into the national team's January camp and Sydney Leroux shouldn't be too far behind. Rather, the biggest area of concern is across the back line.
They've still got Becky Sauerbrunn, who is excellent, but Yael Averbuch had to fill in alongside her there last season -- Averbuch did a solid job, but she would be best used in the midfield. Brittany Taylor remains the first-choice right back but she could slot in the centerback role, so FCKC could go after a right back who can get up and down the flanks in transition more.
Seattle Reign: Right back or attacking mid
The Reign don’t seem to have a dedicated, natural right back at the moment. Merritt Mathias, an attacking player, finished last season in that spot. They could get a right back and free Mathias to get back into the midfield.
The loss of Kim Little is also a big one, and the Reign should be on the lookout for any creative attacking midfielders who can attempt to recreate Little’s magic.
Boston Breakers: center back or attacking mid
The Breakers' defense was horrible last year and was the key reason for all their woes. They've started to address their backline in this offseason, but if they can get a top-rated centerback with one of their several first round draft picks, they should do it. Whitney Engen has not signed yet for 2017, which suggests she may not be back.
The Breakers also need someone who can dictate their attack and help pull the strings a bit, particularly now that Kristie Mewis is off to the Washington Spirit.
Sky Blue: creative playmaker
Where Sky Blue had the most trouble last season was in scoring goals. They have some solid goal-scorers who would benefit from having someone in the midfield who can organize the attack and provide service (or score herself).