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The NWSL’s Primary Trade and Transfer window closes on Friday at midnight eastern time, and will remain closed until August 1st, covering a span of 11 regular season games. With the window closed, teams cannot add or sign any transfers, trades, or international transfer certificates (needed when players switch leagues even as free agents), so the rosters will be pretty much set for the coming months.

Something that is unique about the NWSL is that unlike a majority of the European leagues, the season runs from mid-March to mid-November, with a summer break for the Olympics and a winter offseason. The traditionally european schedule will have games run from mid-September to end of May, with a short break over the winter holidays and summer is off. The true impact of this misalignment in game schedule is that the transfer/trade windows don’t really align either.

In 2023, the Secondary NWSL Window went from the end of June to the end of July, better aligning with the end of the European season and leading into the FIFA World Cup. This season, the window won’t open until midway through the 2024 Paris Olympics, creating a significantly shorter ramp for any additional players to mesh and build cohesion with their new teammates heading into the backend of the season.

Currently, five of the fourteen teams are at the limit of 26 active players, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t add any additional players in the Secondary Window or upgrade any current players off of the non-active roster.

*Washington Spirit signing Leicy Santos was counted toward the active player count since she has already signed although she has not arrived yet.

Contract Structures

Contracts with players can be either guaranteed or semi-guaranteed, unfortunately, there really is no clarity on semi-guaranteed status of contracts of players. Teams may waive players with semi-guaranteed contracts at any time ahead of the yearly roster freeze date (this year it is October 10th), but for players with guaranteed contracts, there are limits. Teams are only able to buy-out one guaranteed contract per season before the buy-out starts impacting the salary cap.

Loaning Players

Unlike most soccer leagues, the NWSL does not allow players to be loaned out to other teams in the NWSL, i.e. inside the league you cannot trade a player for only a finite amount of time. When the windows are closed, what really matters is that new players cannot be added, however, players can be loaned out external to the NWSL while the windows are closed and get back that salary cap space and the active roster space. The issue with the outgoing loans and transfers is that when the NWSL is playing games, a large majority of leagues do not have their own windows open to be able to add an additional player thus limiting the options for loans and transfers through the first half of the season.

Teams to Watch

The teams to watch in the coming months will be those teams who don’t necessarily have the roster space currently available to absorb their 2022 or 2023 SEI’s rejoining the active roster — Angel City, Chicago, Kansas City, Gotham, and Orlando.  

By the time that the Secondary Window opens, the NWSL will be at 15 out of 26 regular season games. Last year, roughly 15 players were signed mid-year with the reigning NWSL Champions NJ/NY Gotham adding three players midyear who played a big role in their playoff run: Esther, Maitane, and Katie Stengel.

Transfers by Country

Looking back at 2023 as a whole, the USA once again completed the highest number of transfers in the world, showing a 33.9% increase in transfers compared to 2022. These 225 transfers (both internal and external) represented more than 10% of all international transfers in 2023.

Photo from 2023 FIFA Global Transfer Report

Of those, 73 were transfers into the league, with 14 of those players coming from Australia. Racing Louisville was the only NWSL side to make the list of top ten clubs by number of incoming transfers, ending up fifth with 12.

And just a reminder, that although the window will close on Friday, what matters most is that the deals are approved by the league by the cutoff time. Teams are not required to publicly announce any additions by any deadline so there is a chance that there are additional moves/additions to be announced.

NWSL Transactions