by Jacob Born | January 12, 2021 

It’s that time of the year again. The NWSL Draft is upon us. 

The 2021 NWSL Draft will take place Wednesday, January 13, where 40 collegiate and international players will see their dreams come true. The draft also marks both the inaugural season for Racing Louisville FC and the recently relocated Kansas City NWSL franchise (from Utah).

Racing Louisville FC has the honor of drafting first overall in 2021, and the nearly consensus top pick was ECNL alum Catarina Macario – before it was leaked that she will be signing with French club and European champions Olympic Lyon. Macario had a stellar career at Stanford, where she was a two-time NCAA and three-time Pac-12 champion, a two-time MAC Hermann Trophy winner, a three-time ESPNW Player of the Year and a three-time All-American. Prior to joining Stanford, Macario scored an incredible 165 goals while playing for the ECNL’s San Diego Surf Soccer Club, leading the league in scoring from 2012-14 and 2016-17, including netting 50 in the 2012-13 season. She was a U-15 national champion in 2014, a runner-up at the 2017 U-18 championship and finished third at the 2013 U-14 and 2016 U-17 championships.

Macario would have been the fourth consecutive No. 1 pick to be an ECNL alumnus.  Now the question is who will become the No. 1 pick, and the recent decision to turn professional early by ECNL alum and current North Carolina Tar Heel Brianna Pinto may answer the question.

Since 2016, at least half of all NWSL drafted players spent their youth careers in the ECNL. Last year, 72 percent of the league were ECNL alumni. The highest total ever was in 2017, when 31 of the 40 players (77 percent) selected spent time in the league.

On Jan. 6, the NWSL announced the elimination of the draft registration requirement for 2021, which means any collegiate senior is eligible to be selected. In addition, 50 collegiate freshmen through juniors and international players entered their names into the pool of players eligible. More than 50 percent of the domestic players on that list are ECNL alumni. With so many players available, this year could see a record number of ECNL graduates drafted. But the ECNL’s impact doesn’t stop at the draft; league alums are everywhere in the professional ranks.

Just this past season, Houston Dash’s Shea Groom combined for six goals in 11 games between the NWSL Fall Series and the NWSL Challenge Cup, leading all players. Teammate Katie Naughton was the only player to see the field for every minute of every match of the Fall Series and Challenge Cup. Both are ECNL alumni. Fellow alumnus Madison Hammond, the first Native American to play in the league, detailed her experiences in the NWSL when she was a guest on the Breaking The Line podcast and lauded how her ECNL peers have pushed the professional league forward. 

In total, more than 100 ECNL alumni are currently playing in the NWSL, making up more than 40 percent of the entire league. That number will grow come Wednesday evening, and the launch of the ECNL Super Cup in 2021 will also help more ECNL players maximize their professional potential in the years to come.

Drafts lay the foundation for championships, extend title windows and make dreams come true. It’s one of the most anticipated dates on the league’s calendar. For the 40 players selected, it could be the best day of their lives. And it’s also when the real work begins. 

Make sure to tune into the 2021 NWSL Draft on Wednesday, January 13 at 7:00 p.m. ET, exclusively on the NWSL’s Twitch Channel.


About the ECNL:

The ECNL is the nation’s leading youth soccer development platform. The ECNL respects and celebrates the unique individuality of every youth soccer player and club, supporting and enabling them to unleash their unfettered passion and fierce tenacity in striving to achieve their potential. 

The ECNL mission to Raise the Game is a total commitment to create the best possible environment for players, coaches, referees and administrators, with a determination to constantly question convention and challenge the status quo in youth sports.

The ECNL Commitment:

We will lead, set our eyes on new horizons, and pursue them relentlessly. 

Girls FB:  /theECNL |  Girls IG: @theECNL  | Girls TW: @theECNL