As a first-time draft attendee, I tried to not set my expectations too high. My job was to be present, soak everything in, and not look like an idiot. I, debatably, accomplished all of those things. When I finally came home after a long day and I sat down to write a piece on the draft… Nothing came to mind. It was the first time in a long time that I attended a women’s soccer event and somehow had nothing to whine about. Was it possible?
Was the 2017 NWSL College Draft, actually… great?
As I entered the Diamond Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles, the attractive lighting and beautifully set stage were the first things to catch my eye. They both elevated the professional touch that surrounded the day. The place was absolutely packed. Hundreds of fans, players, team representatives, media members, and NWSL staff were congregating and awaiting the start of the draft. The feeling in the room was electric.
This feeling was amplified as the draft began and the first name was called: Rose Lavelle. The room exploded. The awareness of my surroundings hit me like a Carli Lloyd wonder-strike. I was at a women’s soccer college draft and a lot of people were hyped.
As a follower of the NWSL, I’ve seen the negative connotation that surrounds league events. It is difficult to ignore their shortcomings at times because many of their faults have been highly covered by media. In fact, it seems to be a trend that the league will only get mainstream coverage when something negative happens. So of course, it would be no surprise to anyone if the draft would have been somewhat disappointing. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
— NWSL (@NWSL) January 7, 2017
This year the league treated the draft like the event it deserved to be. It wasn’t just players getting picked for different teams, it was something that was fun and enjoyable to watch. They made the event entertaining. Plus, they hired amazing hosts (who actually know stuff about women’s soccer) to commentate on the live stream. All of this effort put forth from the league finally gives the impression that they see this league as not only sustainable but as a legitimate form of entertainment for the public.
— Sunil Gulati (@sunilgulati) January 13, 2017
In this tweet from Sunil Gulati, you can literally see the progress. In 2013, the draft was in a small conference room where there was no need to have a fan section. In 2017, the fan section was larger than the team and media areas combined. The improvement being made by the NWSL – while still a work in progress – shows how far we’ve come.
Are there still areas we can improve on? Yes. Always.
But, this league should be proud of the momentum it is gathering going into its 5th year.
Here’s hoping that the 2017 draft is a demonstration of what is to come for this league this season.