WUSA conducts inaugural foreign player allocation draft.(October 31, 2000) -- The Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) conducted its first-ever Foreign Player Allocation Draft. Sixteen of the top international players in the world were grouped into eight pairs with each team receiving one selection. Norway's Hege Riise and Bente Nordby were the first choice of the Orlando franchise.
The draft order for was based on a formula devised by the clubs, weighing the previous player allocation of U.S. national team players in the voting process. Each team submitted their vote for the draft order. The league office compiled the results and the team with the lowest point total (Orlando) was awarded the first pick in the draft. The draft was conducted by conference call. The draft order and results as follows:
1.Orlando - Bente Nordby (Norway) & Hege Riise (Norway);
The first-ever selection by Orlando was the two players from Norway's 2000 Olympic gold-medal squad -- Hege Riise & Bente Nordby. Nordby has been Norway's top keeper for the past four years. She previously helped Norway to its 1996 Olympic bronze medal. Riise, a central midfielder, won the Golden Boot (MVP of the World Cup) for her performance in Norway's World Cup title victory in 1995. Riise, also a member of the 1995 Women's World Cup champions and 2000 Olympic gold medalists, is considered one of the best and most savvy players in the women's game today with her ability to deliver the perfect pass being one of her greatest strengths.
Philadelphia had the second selection and chose sweeper Doris Fitschen & forward Kelly Smith. Fitschen, a sweeper, is the most experienced player of the three Germans who have signed on to play. She has played for the national team since 1986 and been part of three European championship squads (1989, 1991 & 1997). Smith has played five years for the English National Team but most U.S. fans will recognize her for her standout collegiate career at Seton Hall University. Smith tallied 76 goals and netted 174 points in just 51 games for the Pirates. She was Big East Player of the Year all three years she competed, leading the NCAA in scoring her last two seasons. She is currently an assistant coach at Seton Hall.
Choosing third, Bay Area took the Brazilian duo of Katia and Sissi. Katia, a forward, has been the top scorer in Brazil over the last five years, scoring over 200 goals since 1996, of which 158 have come in Brazilian League matches. She was the leading scorer in the 2000 Gold Cup. She is a very athletic player with her top strength being her speed. Sissi, a midfielder, won the 1999 Golden Boot as the top scorer in the Women's World Cup with seven goals and was named the second best player in the world by FIFA. She has competed in three World Cups and helped Brazil to fourth place Olympic finishes in 1996 and 2000. She was named to the FIFA World All Star team in 2000. She is especially dangerous with free kicks.
New York had the fourth selection and chose the second pair of Norwegians, Ann Kristin Aarones and Gro Espeseth. Aarones scored the game-winning goal in the 1995 World Cup, which denied the U.S. a chance to defend its title. She has been a part of every championship and medal-winning Norway team since 1995. It is largely believed that Aarones is one of the most gifted goal scorers in the world today. In the 1995 Women's World Cup she won the Golden Shoe as top scorer. In the 1999 Women's World Cup, she took the Bronze Shoe as the third leading scorer. Espeseth has been a stalwart of the Norwegian soccer team for even longer, nearly ten years. She was on Norway's 1991 World Cup silver-medal team and 1995 World Cup championship team, as well as this year's gold medal squad. A defender who can play the midfield, Espeseth was a big contributor to Norway's 1996 Olympic bronze medal team and played a large role in Norway's win in Sydney. She missed the 1999 World Cup because of injury and her fervent play was missed.
Atlanta chose the pairing of Charmaine Hooper of Canada and Japan's Homare Sawa. Hooper, who is both a forward and midfielder, is Canada's top player. For the past seven years, she has been a member of the Canadian national team, which competed in both the 1995 and 1999 World Cups. Hooper was selected for the FIFA World All Star Team in 1999. She scored goals in each of the five World Cup games she played in and has twice been selected for the World All-Stars. She is Canada's all-time leading scorer (43 goals) and second-most capped player (67). She played collegiately at N.C. State. Sawa is a midfielder who was a member of the Japanese National Team from 1996-1999. She was named to the 1999 FIFA World All Star team and has participated for the World team on both the 1999 and 2000 indoor tour.
With the sixth pick, Boston took the German pair of Maren Meinert and Bettina Wiegmann. Meinert has been a member of Germany's national team since 1991 including two of Germany's European championship squads (1995 & 1997). This past year, she helped her club team (FCR Duisburg) to a title. A versatile player, she can play midfield or up front. Weigmann is one of the top central midfielders in the world and has been a member of the last two German Olympic squads as well as the 1999 World Cup team. She was named Germany's top player in 1997 and is an 11-year veteran of the national team (118 games). During her career, Germany has won the European championship three times (1991, 1995 & 1997) and her German club has won three championships as well (1991, 1994 & 1997).
Washington had the seventh selection and chose the Brazilian duo of Pretinha and Roseli. Pretinha, a forward, has been a member of the national team since she was 16, and has been a strong contributor and starter for all three World Cup teams. She has a strong left foot, standout speed and has displayed a knack for scoring in big games. The final member of the Brazilian quartet is Roseli, who can play either forward or midfield. She is another veteran player who has been a member of the national team since 1991. A knee injury kept her off of the 1999 World Cup, but she had a strong 2000 Olympics. She was a starter in the Atlanta games and has scored nearly 200 goals in her career.
With the final pick, San Diego selected the Swedish pair of Kristin Bengttson and Ulrika Karlsson. One of the fiercest international competitors, Bengttson was a member of Sweden's 1996 and 2000 Olympic squads, as well as its 1999 World Cup team. In 1995, she helped lead Sweden to a silver medal in the 1995 European championship game and to the quarterfinals of the 1999 World Cup. Bengttson, a left-sided player, has 98 caps and is one of the better defenders in the world. Karlsson is one of the top goalkeepers in the world. In 1999, she was FIFA's choice as the best goalkeeper in the world. Karlsson has been a member of the Swedish national team for the past six years, playing in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, as well as the 1999 World Cup. She was selected as Sweden's Player of the Year in 1997, the best goalkeeper in Europe that same year, and competed in the 1999 FIFA World All Star Match.
The WUSA will begin play in April 2001.