Stanford's Smith declares early, goes 1st in NWSL draft

Stanford forward Sophia Smith was selected first overall Thursday by the Portland Thorns in the National Women's Soccer League college draft.

The Thorns also traded for the second pick and used it to select forward Morgan Weaver from Washington State.

Smith, who declared her eligibility for the draft on Wednesday, had 17 goals and nine assists this season as a sophomore for the 2019 College Cup champion Cardinal. Stanford won the NCAA title on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw with North Carolina.

“I just felt that this was the best time for me to take the next chapter of my life and my career,” Smith said on the draft broadcast. “I think there's no better time to do it than now. So I went for it and followed my heart.”

Smith is in training camp with the U.S. national team in Florida. Last week, the Thorns traded national team defender Emily Sonnett and the rights to Australian Caitlin Foord to the Orlando Pride in exchange for the top pick.

The four-round draft was held at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Weaver had 15 goals as a senior for Washington State, which advanced to the College Cup semifinals this season for the first time in program history.

The Thorns acquired the second pick in a three-way deal with Chicago and Sky Blue. Weaver got a shoutout on Twitter from Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew, who also played for the Cougars.

Another first-round trade sent the Washington Spirit's Mallory Pugh to Sky Blue for the fourth overall pick — UCLA's Ashley Sanchez — two second-round picks and a first-rounder next year. Pugh played on the World Cup-winning U.S. team last summer in France.

Sanchez, who had 15 assists with the Bruins as a junior last season, announced her decision to go pro Wednesday.

The third pick in the draft was Colorado's Taylor Kornieck, selected by the Pride. The lanky 6-foot-1 midfielder had 39 goals and 24 assists in four years with the Buffaloes.

Rounding out the top five was South Florida's Evelyne Viens, a Canadian who set school and American Athletic Conference records with 73 goals in 77 games in her career. She also had a school and conference record with 25 goals as a senior this season.

The NWSL is about to embark on its eighth season and it is already the longest-lasting professional women's soccer league in the United States. There are currently nine teams.

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