Professional women’s soccer is returning to Kansas City for the first time since 2017 as the National Women’s Soccer League announced on Monday that Utah Royals FC is relocating to the City of Fountains.
League announces Kansas City will rejoin the NWSL in 2021.Details below
— NWSL (@NWSL) December 7, 2020
The Utah Royals move comes after former owner Dell Loy Hansen and the Real Salt Lake organization was exposed for running an environment filled with racism and sexism earlier this summer. After this information was revealed, Hansen subsequently sold his assets in the Utah soccer holdings, which included Utah Royals FC and Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer.
With the survival and future of the Royals looking uncertain, the decision was made relocate the club to Kansas City as an expansion team. The new Kansas City club will acquire all of the Royals’ player rights, draft picks and assets, but part of the deal includes an option for Utah to re-establish its name and franchise in 2023, thus explaining why Kansas City is being defined as an expansion team.
Utah women’s soccer fans could see their team return in 2023, but that didn’t make saying goodbye to their players any easier. The Royals had one of the largest fanbases in terms of attendance during its brief history. The club averaged nearly 11,000 fans each game.
Current and former Royals players, along with the organization, took to social media to thank the fans for all of the support over the past three years.
A message from our captain pic.twitter.com/lrS43lXN4f
Since the moment we announced the club, we could feel your passion, support & commitment.Nothing can take away the incredible memories we made together.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Utah is forever Royal. pic.twitter.com/IUZMUdjv3r
— Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyalsFC) December 7, 2020
A massive and heartfelt THANK YOU for all the incredible memories Utah Royals Fans! Tough to be leaving but so grateful for the years spent playing in one of the best stadiums in the league with the best fans! Truly thankful for all the support! @UtahRoyalsFC pic.twitter.com/xwoprH9JTd— Desiree Scott (@MsDScott11) December 7, 2020
— Verónica Boquete (@VeroBoquete) December 7, 2020
The club will now be headed by a new ownership group from Kansas City led by Angie and Chris Long of Palmer Square Capital Management. Former professional soccer player Brittany Matthews, who is engaged to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, is also included in the ownership group. Matthews said she is thrilled for the return of women’s soccer to Kansas City.
“As a former collegiate and professional soccer player, I have a true level of appreciation for what these incredible women do on a daily basis. I am honored to be part of an amazing ownership group that is passionate about the game and eager to welcome a NWSL team back to Kansas City," Matthews said. "We have the greatest fans and community here in KC and I can't wait to huddle around this team – we want more championship parades in the very near future!"
FC Kansas City was the previous NWSL team to represent the city. The club won two league championships in 2014 and 2015 before moving to Utah amid a change in ownership and poor attendance numbers.
NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said she believes this new ownership group will bring more success than its predecessor.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for our league, and I'm absolutely thrilled to welcome Kansas City back to the NWSL," Baird said. "Kansas City is a soccer-rich community, and this fantastic ownership group is ready and able to commit the resources necessary for this club to be a massive success. I'd also like to thank the fans in Utah for their incredible support of the NWSL."