NWSL College Draft: Smith goes No. 1 to Portland, Washington takes Sanchez after trading Pugh

Stanford's Sophia Smith became the first teenager ever taken in the NWSL College Draft when she was selected by Portland with the No, 1 pick while UCLA's Ashley Sanchez, another player with remaining college eligibility, went to Washington with the No. 4 pick.

Just how highly prized they are was evident in what it cost to acquire the draft picks needed to pick them.

A week ago, the Thorns secured the No. 1 overall pick when they sent a package that included U.S. national team defender Emily Sonnett, the rights to Australian forward Caitlin Foord and the seventh and 14th pick in the 2020 draft.

Washington took Sanchez after acquiring the fourth pick (along with the 13th and 17th pick) in a deal with Sky Blue FC for a player to be named later, who happened to be another U.S. world champion -- Mallory Pugh.

It followed a complex set of trades concluded on site at the draft in Baltimore. At the heart of the action were the Chicago Red Stars, who acquired the No. 2 and No. 3 picks in a deal with Sky Blue FC but turned around and traded them to Portland (for allocation money) and Orlando (for Racheal Hill).

“I had to be talked into that one because I didn’t want to make it happen," Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke said of the deal to send Pugh to Sky Blue FC.

Pugh's arrival in Washington in 2017 had been greeted with great fanfare though her production the last two season was underwhelming: two goals and one assist in 2018 and two goals and two assists in 2019.

Smith, the third straight Cardinal to go No. 1 after Andi Sullivan (to Washington in 2018) and Tierna Davidson (to Chicago 2019), said the NWSL's growth influenced her decision to enter the draft after only two college seasons.

“The league is growing as a whole," she said, "and I think that people can see that it is an amazing place to play soccer."

The NWSL introduced new spending mechanisms for 2020 with the introduction of $300,000 in allocation money per team. Its primary purpose is to attract (or keep) players who might otherwise move to Europe.

Sanchez confirmed the new order when she said "money" was what she liked about turning pro.
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