United States women’s national team player Kristie Mewis was the highest profile player traded during Thursday’s National Women’s Soccer League expansion draft, with San Diego Wave FC picking her before immediately agreeing a deal with NJ/NY Gotham for her rights.
Mewis had been left unprotected by Houston Dash for the expansion draft, which also saw the blockbuster move of striker Alex Morgan from Orlando Pride to Wave FC confirmed.
San Diego traded Mewis to NJ/NY Gotham for $200,000 in allocation money, which is money that teams can spend above the league salary cap and will offer San Diego flexibility as they continue to build out their debut roster.
Mewis is a nine-year veteran of the NWSL, playing both as a defender and a forward throughout her career.
In 2020, she enjoyed a career resurgence, winning the NWSL Challenge Cup with the Dash and finding her way back onto the USWNT after five years out of the fold.
Earlier this month, Mewis was spotted at a Tottenham Hotspur training session, raising speculation that she may be the latest USWNT player to leave the NWSL for England. The door had been opened for Mewis to make the change when U.S. Soccer and the USWNT’s players union reached a new deal that ended the requirement for USWNT players to compete in the NWSL.
But Gotham expressed confidence Mewis will join the club next season.
“Kristie is the exact type of player we’re looking for at Gotham FC,” Gotham general manager Yael Averbuch West said in a statement.
“She has fought extremely hard to come back from some early adversity in her career and has transformed herself into a tremendous player. She’ll fit right in thanks to her dedication, passion, and grit.”
Both Wave FC and Angel City used the threat of selecting players in the draft to negotiate other deals, including Alex Morgan’s exit from Orlando City.
San Diego declined to take a player from Orlando in the draft, which was part of a deal to acquire Morgan in exchange for $275,000 in allocation money — the largest single transaction in NWSL history since allocation money was introduced ahead of the 2020 season.
Morgan and San Diego revealed her high-profile move ahead of Thursday’s draft, but the deal did not go into effect until immediately after the draft when an NWSL roster freeze was lifted.
The other players selected by San Diego were Kristen McNabb, a defender who has been with OL Reign since 2017, and defender Kaleigh Riehl, who made her NWSL debut last year with Racing Louisville.
“We were balanced in what we wanted and we were very strategic,” Wave FC general manager Jill Ellis said.
“Some of these players we got tonight, week in and week out in the league they’ve proven themselves. We’ve got players with a lot of experiences coming in.”
Angel City’s top pick in the draft was Dani Weatherholt, a six-year veteran in the NWSL, last as a midfielder for OL Reign.
The new Los Angeles-based club also selected forward Claire Emslie from Orlando, Jasmyne Spencer from Houston and defender Paige Nielsen from the Washington Spirit.
“It’s really important for us to have the complete team and have players who can play in lots of different positions,” Angel City head coach Freya Coombe said.
“We’ve talked before about our ability to have some tactical flexibility, so that’s something we looked at with the players that we got.”
Other star players who were eligible to be selected during the expansion draft included USWNT winger Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), USWNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns) and Canadian all-time leading scorer Christine Sinclair (Thorns), but none were selected in the expansion draft.
Immediately after the draft, the Thorns received $50,000 in allocation money from Wave FC in exchange for the rights to defender Christen Westphal and forward Amirah Ali.
More moves are on the way. The NWSL college draft is set for Saturday, and teams have been jostling for position in the lead-up.
After Thursday’s expansion draft, Angel City acquired the No. 6 college draft pick from the Dash in exchange for $125,000 in allocation money and the No. 26 pick.