Despite having the opportunity to select up to 12 players tonight at the Expansion Draft to grow their roster, that stood at 12 before the draft, Utah Royals FC selected two players with the second and fourth picks and passed on the sixth, eight, and 10th picks, officially wrapping up their time for the evening. After making trades with nine NWSL clubs leading up to the draft, the Royals were only able to select players from the Chicago Red Stars, OL Reign, and Racing Louisville.
With the second pick and Utah's first, the club added forward Elyse Bennett from OL Reign FC. Bennett was originally drafted by the KC Current as the seventh overall selection in the 2022 NWSL Draft from Washington State. She scored three goals and recorded six assists in Kansas City, and she would often be subbed in and immediately made an impact. Bennett was traded to the Reign in January. With the Reign, Bennett recorded two goals and two assists across 21 regular season matches in 2023.
Utah then selected forward Paige Monaghan from Racing Louisville with the fourth pick. Monaghan comes to Utah with five years of experience, beginning her NWSL career with NJ/NY Gotham FC from 2019 to 2022 before being traded to Racing Louisville in 2023. She scored three goals in 2023, with nine overall in her professional career in 79 total appearances.
Here’s the roster after the draft, and where each player was acquired from:
Goalkeepers: Mandy Haught (Gotham FC), Carly Nelson (Orlando Pride)
Defenders: Kaleigh Riehl (San Diego Wave), Madison Pogarch (San Diego Wave), Kate Del Fava (KC Current)
Midfielders: Mikayla Cluff (Orlando Pride), Michele Vasconcelos (Portland Thorns), Emily Gray (North Carolina Courage), Frankie Tagliaferri (North Carolina Courage)
Forwards: Elyse Bennett (OL Reign), Hannah Betford (Portland Thorns), Imani Dorsey (Gotham FC), Paige Monaghan (Racing Louisville), Cameron Tucker (Houston Dash)
How Utah continues to build their roster will be important. The NWSL transaction moratorium will end Saturday morning, and teams will be able to sign restricted and unrestricted free agents and continue to make trades.