A month ago Orlando was excited about having one professional soccer team under the Orlando City banner. Now we have three! In the last few weeks the club announced both the Orlando City B (OCB) team would join the USL in 2016, and earlier this week the Orlando Pride team was announced to join the NWSL in 2016 as well. And the worst-kept secret in all of professional sports was revealed as USWNT superstar Alex Morgan was announced to be a player for the Pride. I was certain that Ms. Morgan was going to be playing for a women's team in Orlando as soon as her husband (Servando Carrasco) was acquired from Sporting KC by Orlando City during the middle of the 2015 season.
Building the Orlando Pride Roster
Yesterday we also learned the process by which the Pride would be permitted to select players through the NWSL expansion draft. Each club is required to have several unprotected players, and the Pride will be permitted to select up to 10 players in this draft, and no more than two players from any one of the current nine clubs in the league.
It appears that this will build about half the roster for the squad. Unlike the MLS side, which has 30 players on its first team, the NWSL league web site states that 2015 roster rules limit squads to a total of 20 players under contract. Aside from the special Expansion Draft for the Pride, there are several other mechanisms whereby teams can add players: Allocations, College Draft, Trades, Discovery, Waivers, Amateur Call-up, Disabled List, Season-ending Injury, Replacement, and Goalkeeper Replacement.
Most of these processes are similar to those of other major American sports leagues. However, the allocation process is where the national soccer federation of the US, Canada, or Mexico can assign a player to a team and pay her salary so that it doesn't count against the club's salary cap. This may be another source of players for the Pride, in the event that some WNT players from the three North American nations do not already have a contract to play with another team in the NWSL or another professional league in the globe.
No dates are as yet listed for 2016 drafts or deadlines aside from the expansion draft, but it looks like the college draft includes players who declare by mid-January, and for 2015 this draft covered players who exhaust their college eligibility or graduate between 2014 and 2015. Presumably the 2016 draft would include similar rules. The Roster Rules page (linked above) does not include any information on how many rounds or players can be acquired by each team through the draft, so we'll likely learn all that information later. I seriously doubt the draft is eight rounds, so it will likely mean some additional trades and amateur call-ups will be needed to add the expansion draft players to Alex Morgan and Kaylyn Kyle, who were announced earlier in the week by Paul Tenorio in a story in the Orlando Sentinel.
I've already committed to season tickets for the Orlando Pride as well as Orlando City for next season. Unfortunately due to location and work constraints I'm unable to commit to season tickets for the OCB squad, but I'm looking forward to having three teams to root for and follow next season. I'm so excited for the growth of the sport in our area, and especially to see the way the women's team is being embraced. I'm so excited to see what 2016 will hold for all three of our clubs, and I hope that the Pride will match or exceed the achievements of Orlando City SC during their first season in MLS. I look forward to seeing more of you at the matches, during tailgating, and during watch parties, as well as communicating online and through social media.