UNC players go 1-2 in NWSL Draft

Ally Sentnor and Savy King went Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, to the league’s new expansion teams

UNC’s Ally Sentnor was selected first overall in the National Women's Soccer League Draft last Friday. Sentnor, the ACC Midfielder of the Year, was picked by the expansion Utah Royals. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

Friday was a good day to be a Tar Heel.

UNC teammates Ally Sentnor and Savy King were picked first and second overall in Friday’s 2024 National Women’s Soccer League Draft. The duo were among six UNC players selected in the four-round draft.

The 19-year-old Sentnor was drafted by the expansion Utah Royals. She had 11 goals and seven assists last season as a sophomore and was named Atlantic Coast Conference Midfielder of the Year.

The 18-year-old King went to the NWSL’s other expansion club, Bay FC in the San Francisco Bay Area. The defender spent one year with the Tar Heels and was a nominee for U.S. Soccer’s 2023 Young Player of the Year.

“I learned a lot at UNC playing center back and I’ve always been an outside back as well, so I’m excited for the next step and to continue learning in my journey as a pro,” King said.

The Washington Spirit selected midfielder Croix Bethune of Georgia with the third overall pick. The Spirit traded up earlier in the day, acquiring the pick from the Chicago Red Stars in exchange for defender Sam Staab.

The Royals took BYU attacker Brecken Mozingo with the No. 4 pick. Mozingo is from Sandy, Utah, a Salt Lake City suburb and the location of the Royals’ stadium. Mozingo, who had 14 goals and 15 assists for the Cougars as a senior last season, was a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy given to the nation’s top college players.

A year after selecting three players in the first round, the North Carolina Courage traded out of the opening round this year to acquire midfielder Ashley Sanchez from the Washington Spirit for the fifth overall pick and $250,000 in allocation money. The Courage also traded away the 10th overall pick to Chicago and recouped $175,000 in allocation money.

Sanchez, a California native who played collegiately at UCLA, has 12 goals in three NWSL seasons with Washington. She played for the United States at last summer’s Women’s World Cup and has appeared in 27 matches with the national team since 2021 with three goals.

The Spirit used the fifth pick to draft Hal Hershfelt of Clemson.

A third Tar Heel was taken in the first round when Gotham FC selected defender Maycee Bell with the 14th and final pick of Round 1. Bell was co-captain in her final year at UNC and was named second-team All-ACC.

With the first pick in the second round, Chicago selected NC State forward Jameese Joseph. Joseph was named third-team All-ACC each of the last two years and had three goals in her final season with the Wolfpack.

UNC’s Sam Meza and Avery Patterson were also both selected in the second round. Meza, picked 17th by Seattle Reign FC, was second-team All-ACC for the Tar Heels, while first-team All-ACC selection Patterson went 19th to the Houston Dash.

Their teammate Julia Dorsey was one of three players selected by the North Carolina Courage in the draft. Dorsey was picked in the third round, 40th overall, 16 picks before the Courage used No. 24 overall to draft Natalia Staude, a defender out of Virginia. North Carolina used its final choice on another ACC player, picking Pittsburgh forward Landy Mertz with the 52nd overall pick in Round 4.

Alex Kerr, the daughter of Duke men’s soccer coach John Kerr, was drafted a couple of picks before Mertz at No. 50 by the Orlando Pride. She played her first three seasons at Vanderbilt before transferring to Texas Tech for her final two years. She played both soccer and tennis at Chapel Hill High School.

There were a few other moves on draft day. The Houston Dash signed free agent forward Yuki Nagasato through 2025. Nagasato played the past two seasons with the Chicago Red Stars.

This was the first offseason in which players in the 10-year-old league were eligible for free agency. Defending league champions FC Gotham made the biggest splash, signing national team players Crystal Dunn, Tierna Davidson, Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett over the past two weeks.

Angel City acquired midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard from the San Diego Wave for $40,000 in allocation money earlier Friday.

Defender Arin Wright was traded by Chicago to Racing Louisville for the No. 15 pick in the draft and $125,000. Wright is from Kentucky and played for the Wildcats.

The NWSL’s regular season opens on March 16.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.