On Thursday, however, the league announced it would allow Shaw into the NWSL through a discovery process involving all 12 teams. Ranked by how they finished last season, teams can claim their rights next Thursday. (The NWSL won’t say whether 2022 expansion clubs Angel City and San Diego are top or bottom of the list.)
If Shaw doesn’t fall to Washington, who won the championship last season and is no higher than No. 10 on the finds list, the Spirit would try to make a trade.
“We obviously think she’s got talent, and we’d like something to work out,” spiritual coach Kris Ward said during her weekly media session. “But it’s not always that simple.”
Last week, Shaw was part of the USA U-20 team that won the Sud Ladies Cup in Aubagne, France. In a three-game competition, she has scored in the last two games. Shaw is expected to be in the roster for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in August in Costa Rica.
“You have someone who wants to play and there is a process that has to be [completed] before that could happen,” Ward said of Shaw’s NWSL future. “Luckily now we are at the end of this line and it is just a matter of determining the last obstacle.
If the NWSL hadn’t made an exception for Shaw, she would have had to wait until January’s draft, two months after she turned 18. However, the league risked losing her overseas or being sued on antitrust grounds, as young midfielder Olivia Moultrie did last year.
Moultrie won and the league made her available through the discovery process. Seattle-based OL Reign selected Moultrie and then signed rights to the Portland Thorns, with whom she had trained for two years. Portland gave up a third-round draft pick.
“Any team that seeks to participate in the discovery process [for Shaw] would need to demonstrate a plan for how they would comply with child protection rules until Shaw turns 18,” the NWSL said.
Commissioner Jessica Berman said in a statement: “This is a special circumstance which I believe requires us to be flexible in how we apply our policies and, in practice, forms part of our review. continuation of our age restriction policy.”
The NWSL said the age limit policy will remain in place “as the league continues to review and revise its policies and procedures. … [Any] future requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
While the league’s decision to make Shaw available in the discovery process may prevent him from joining the Spirit, Ward said he doesn’t think “they were tough or obtuse in any way.” .
“It’s their understanding that the landscape is changing and shifting,” he said.
He added that with more professional opportunities around the world available to young players than ever before, getting into the league beyond the draft is “something that is going to have to be addressed.”
In Shaw’s case, Ward said, “I don’t think the league put up any roadblocks to a process, but they wanted to make sure a process was carefully thought out and that it was fair. “
The NWSL, which was launched in 2013, does not have a local development system like MLS. In the men’s league, teams develop teenagers in their youth academies and have exclusive signing rights. There is also no age limit for signing an MLS contract.
The Spirit employed two teenagers: Mallory Pugh, then 19, acquired in rank order in 2017, and Trinity Rodman, then 18, in the 2021 draft.