Analysis

6 top talents the NWSL would love to add to its arsenal

If Amandine Henry and Marta are within reach, so are these other global standouts:

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The NWSL is widely considered to be one of the best leagues in the world of women’s soccer - if not THE best. 

For years, the United States was the go to for the cream of women’s soccer talent, but with financial opportunities now greater in areas of Europe and Asia, players have options. 

Despite this, players such as Portland’s Amandine Henry have taken a pay cut to join the league from prominent clubs, like UEFA Women’s Champions League holders Lyon, while Marta returned to the U.S. after a successful spell in Sweden. 

This indicates that the league is still a magnet for some of the world’s best, but who outside of these shores would make for valuable additions to an NWSL franchise? 

Here are six players we’d like to see in the league -- restrictions and salary caps set aside, of course -- and where they might fit in. 

Shanice van de Sanden 

Club: Liverpool Ladies (England) 
National Team: Netherlands 

During the Euro 2017 final, former United States midfielder Aly Wagner tweeted, "Dear any NWSL club, please sign Van de Sanden. K thx." 

The appeal came after a succession of eye-catching performances by the Dutch winger, who forged a formidable partnership with fellow forwards Vivianne Miedema and player of the tournament Lieke Martens. 

In truth, the player of the tournament discussions often included van de Sanden, who from the off made her mark in her home competition, scoring in the opening game against Norway. She was a constant thorn in the outside backs she came up against, and with the NWSL's high-speed, high-tempo style of play, there is no question the Liverpool winger would be a player many would like to lure. 

While Boston has a spot out wide following the departure of Emilie Haavi, it has greater needs elsewhere. This is why the Dutch star would be a better fit for the Washington Spirit. The thought of Mallory Pugh and van de Sanden down the sides is quite a frightening prospect, and with their pace and ability to run at defenders, it would make for an entertaining visit down to the Plex. 

Elise Kellond-Knight 

Club: Turbine Potsdam (Germany) 
National Team: Australia

The NWSL has been graced with a number of Australians since its launch in 2013, with the likes of Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr developing into one of the best players in the world. 

Elise Kellond-Knight, or “KK” as she is known to her teammates, is not one of them. The 27-year-old holding midfielder would be a welcome addition to the league and a club like FC Kansas City, who needs some more competition in that area.  

Kellond-Knight is the general in the Australia midfield - reliable, calm and composed on the ball, but tenacious without it. Her move to Europe has seen her game reach another level, and she helped Turbine Potsdam to a third-place finish last year after a few years of struggle.

Her ability to play at outside back also makes her an appealing proposition, with her versatility a welcome attribute to a team like FCKC. 

Kellond-Knight might not receive the plaudits of Kerr and Asia Player of the Year Caitlin Foord, but she is a key cog in the Australian wheel, and having been named in the all-tournament team at the last two World Cups (in different positions), her class is without question. 

Beatriz Zaneratto Joao  

Club: Incheon Red Angels (South Korea) 
National Team: Brazil 

Formiga, Cristiane and, of course, Marta have all dazzled us with their samba skills in the United States, with Marta once again showing no signs of age following her return with the Orlando Pride. But the trio will not be around forever, and a young crop of players, as we saw in the Tournament of Nations, will need to take the baton when the more experienced heads retire. 

One of those who lit up the Rio Olympics was Beatriz Zaneratto João - better known as simply Beatriz or Bia - who plays in the South Korean WK-League. The 23-year-old, who can play as a forward or attacking midfielder, has helped her club to four straight, scoring 10 goals and assisting a further seven last season. 

This year, she is faring even better, netting 18 times with 11 assists as her side currently sits top of the league. She scored twice at the Olympics last year and her goals, creativity and the fact her current club’s 4-3-3 formation mean she would be ideal for the Boston Breakers, who are the lowest scorers in the NWSL.

One issue? Her salary. Beatriz is reported to be earning around $60,000 per year. Like Amandine Henry, she'd have to take a pay cut. 

NEXT: Raiding Europe's big two for back line talent

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