The NWSL announced Monday that there will be an expansion team in Kansas City that will begin to play in 2021. The Utah Royals will be relocated after a successful ownership transfer from Utah Soccer LLC to an ownership group in Kansas City. The sale includes player rights, draft picks, and other assets. It also includes the option for the Utah Royals to re-establish in 2023 under a new owner.
The league is no stranger to Kansas City. FC Kansas City was one of the eight founding clubs of the NWSL when the league started in 2012. FCKC was one of the most successful clubs on the field, winning back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015.
The ownership group is led by Angie and Chris Long of Palmer Square Capital Management. The group includes Jen Gulvik and Brittany Matthews. Gulvik is a marketing and creative executive, in addition to being an owner she will serve as the team president.
Matthews, a fitness entrepreneur, played college soccer at the University of Texas at Tyler before going overseas and playing professionally in Iceland for UMF Afturelding. Outside of the soccer world, Matthews is engaged to NFL superstar Patrick Mahomes.
It was also announced that Huw Williams was appointed as head coach of the new team. Williams was previously the general manager and assistant coach of FC Kansas City for four years.
Six players were a part of the FC Kansas City team that moved to Utah that will also be a part of the move back to KC; Brittany Ratcliffe, Katie Bowen, Amy Rodriguez, Lo’eau LaBonta, Desiree Scott, and Nicole Barnhart.
It is worth noting that this team will not be playing at Children’s Mercy Park, the stadium that is home to the MLS team Sporting KC. Much like when FC Kansas City was around, Sporting KC’s owners still want nothing to do with the women’s team and are unwilling to share the facilities.
On the Utah side
Utah had a tumultuous summer that started with allegations of racism and sexism against owner Dell Loy Hansen coming to light. Hansen owned the MLS, USL, and NWSL teams in Utah and was forced to sell all of his soccer assets by the MLS and NWSL. When all of this came to light, many thought that relocation for the Utah Royals was a strong possibility if no buyer was willing to keep the team in Utah.
Happiness for the people and the city of Kansas City also means great sadness for those in Utah. The fans in Utah showed up during their time in the league, averaging the second-highest attendance only behind the Portland Thorns.
I’m sorry to all the fans that showed up to support the Royals, to all the staff that suddenly found themselves without a job, and to everyone behind the scenes. It isn’t fair to anyone, and this certainly didn’t come from a lack of support. Due to factors out of their control, they lost the team that they loved and that is the worst part about all this. Hopefully, in 2023 the NWSL will go back to Utah and reward those fans that supported the team day in and day out.
Until then though, we wait for a team logo, name, and venue that will be announced at a later date.