The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) announced the team assignments of 23 American, 16 Canadian and 16 Mexican national team players on Friday. The league's eight teams were each allocated three Americans, two Canadians and two Mexicans, with the exception of one team - Western New York Flash - receiving only two Americans. Fans of Kansas City's newest professional soccer team, FC Kansas City, can be well pleased with the seven players assigned to the league's only Midwest club.
To go along with yesterday's unveiling of a new club logo (much better than the original), it is indeed exciting times for fans of the women's game in Kansas City.
Americans Lauren Cheney, Becky Sauerbrunn and Nicole Barnhart, Canadians Lauren Sesselmann and Desiree Scott, and Mexicans Renae Cuellar and Marylin Diaz, will be the core from which FCKC head coach Vlatko Andonovski will build the club's inaugural 2013 roster. These seven players were part of the 55 national team players whose salaries were agreed to be paid by their own country's soccer federation in an attempt to bring star names to the league, while also making financial long-term stability a possibility.
The way teams organize themselves in a certain style and play will be somewhat dictated to them for the 2013 NWSL season, given that many of the league's best players were assigned to a particular team rather than sought out for best fit and agreed upon. At least until player acquisition mechanisms - trades, contracts, drafts, etc. - are determined, each club will have to be use the resources assigned to it.
FC Kansas City shouldn't hurt too much from this, as they've been given a strong foundation from which to build.
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Barnhart (goalkeeper), Sauerbrunn and Sesselmann are arguably the best set of defending players assigned to any team in the league. Sauerbrunn, 27, was the most speculated about FCKC player prior to the allocation announcement. Born in St. Louis, Mo., aged 27, Sauerbrunn has been an on-again, off-again United States women's national team since 2008, amassing 37 first team appearances. Barnhart, 31, is the de facto number-two goalkeeper behind Hope Solo and made five of her 45 career appearances in 2012. Sesselmann, a 29-year old American-born Canadian, was granted Canadian citizenship in 2010 and has been a starting fixture north of the border ever since - 26 appearances.
Midfield talent isn't lacking either, with Scott - nicknamed "The Destroyer" - and Cheney, a playmaking specialist for the USWNT, being the marquee names. Cheney, just 25 years old, has made 82 appearances for the USWNT and scored 18 goals from midfield. She was also an instrumental part in the Americans' 2012 London Olympics gold medal winning side. Scott, also 25, has 53 senior team appearances for Canada, and a 2012 bronze medal.
Much like their city neighbors Sporting KC, the problem - at least in early days - might be finding a consistent goal scorer. Cuellar, the 22-year old Mexican international forward, split her college days between the University of Arizona and Oklahoma University, and scored 12 goals in 19 games for the Sooners during her 2012 senior season. Sesselman has also played forward in her career, but made a move to the backline in the recent past.
The key thing to keep in mind regarding each team's competitive balance, is this: while the allocation of the national team star players are what will draw the headlines and publicity for the NWSL, the impending college draft and even more so, free agent signings of players not allocated as national team players, will ultimately create nearly 80 percent of each team's roster. That 80 percent will outweigh the 20 percent assigned today, likely determining the league's top, most competitive team. That said, FC Kansas City have a strong foundation from which to build.
April 2013 can't roll around soon enough.
Lauren Cheney | Becky Sauerbrunn | Nicole Barnhart | Lauren Sesselmann | Desiree Scott