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Orlando Has an NWSL Team...Now What?

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Now that the Orlando Pride has been formally announced, how will the team fill out its roster between now and the start of the 2016 season?

Photo courtesy of Orlando City SC

So, Orlando has a National Women's Soccer League team, with yesterday's announcement of the Orlando Pride joining in 2016. Now what? How will the team build a roster?

"Over the course of the coming weeks and months, I will work closely with the Club's General Manager Paul McDonough to build our technical staff and roster, attracting some of the best talent in women's professional soccer to Orlando," said Head Coach Tom Sermanni in a club press release. "I am eager to get started and look forward to the 2016 season."

There are numerous mechanisms that Sermanni and McDonough will use to construct the team. These include domestic and international discovery signings, the NWSL expansion draft, and the 2016 NWSL College Draft. The Pride will have the first pick in each round of the 2016 NWSL College Draft and the top spot in both the discovery and waiver tie-breakers.

The first mechanism is already underway. Eight players were waived by their NWSL clubs today, giving teams until 1 p.m. ET tomorrow to claim them. Orlando owns the first tie breaker in case a player is claimed by multiple teams. Those waived players include:

We'll see if the Pride take a chance on any of the above waived players. Bia and Suzanne Pires are Brazilian. Just saying.

The upcoming expansion draft process is rumored to closely resemble those utilized by the league's 2014 addition of the Houston Dash. If so, that would mean that each of the nine existing teams could protect up to two U.S. Women's National Team players. A team like FC Kansas City, which has three ongoing USWNT players, as well as the retiring Lauren Holiday, would not be able to protect everyone. So, for example, Orlando might have the opportunity to pluck either Amy Rodriguez or Heather O'Reilly from the FCKC roster, because the club would likely protect defender Becky Sauerbrunn.

The NWSL trade window will close on Friday at 5 p.m. ET, preventing any player movement until the Nov. 2 expansion draft. We should receive details on that mechanism in the near future.

It is possible the Pride will be able to make a move or two prior to the trade window closing on Friday afternoon. If it doesn't happen, we won't have our first Pride players until Nov. 2, which is only a week from Monday. From that point on, we should see the roster start coming together fairly quickly. No doubt McDonough has already been working behind the scenes to gauge teams' interest in trades, and working back-door deals in exchange for not selecting certain players in the expansion draft.

Unless FC Kansas City moves one of its USWNT players prior to Friday, expect Orlando to pounce on whichever player is left unprotected. It would be surprising if the Pride were to bypass such obvious available talent, however, it could mean that a secret deal was made which might pay off somewhere down the line. Unlike Orlando City did with New York City FC, the Pride will not share the expansion draft with another team, which will make deals easier to make and limits the amount of strategic thinking that must go into making those selections, since there is no competition.

Look for the Pride to add a minimum of one USWNT player to the roster prior to the opening game in 2016. As for rumors, there's Florida native Ashlyn Harris, a 30-year-old goalkeeper who has been Hope Solo's backup on the USWNT. There have been several rumblings about her returning to Florida to join the Pride.

Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger were both at the Orlando City vs. NYCFC match last week. With Morgan being married to OCSC midfielder Servando Carrasco, many assume she is a likely candidate to come to Orlando. Currently a Portland Thorn, Morgan may be expendable to Portland due to both her inability to stay healthy and the presence of Christine Sinclair.

The Chicago Red Stars have Julie Johnston, Lori Chalupny and Christen Press, but Chalupny has announced her impending retirement from international soccer, which will likely mean that none of the three will be exposed in the expansion draft.

We'll know more soon about the Nov. 2 expansion draft, but here are the rules that the Houston Dash had in place the last time this happened:

  • 2013 playoff teams may protect up to 9 players, and 2013 non-playoff teams up to 10.
  • Clubs with more than two US allocated players must leave at least one unprotected.
  • The Dash are allowed to pick up to two players from any existing team, though choosing a US allocated player is considered as using both picks.
  • The Dash are allowed to pick no more than two US allocated players, one Canadian allocated player, and one Mexican allocated player.
  • When an existing club loses a player, they may protect one of their remaining unprotected players.
  • Existing clubs are required to protect players that are on loan from another league, a non-allocated international player, or contractually limited against potential movement between teams.

It will be interesting to see how Sermanni and McDonough build this roster. As a longtime international coach, Sermanni no doubt has a great base of knowledge about the world's top players. How many of them will land in Orlando? We'll have to wait and see.