NWSL awards new team to Kansas City group to replace Utah Royals

After three years in Utah, the NWSL is winding down the Royals and returning to Kansas City.

It's almost a déjà vu of what happened after the 2017 season, though in reverse. FC Kansas City folded and the NWSL awarded a new team to Dell Loy Hansen, owner of MLS's Real Salt Lake.

In the case of FC Kansas City, ownership issues and lack of support doomed the venture. Support was not an issue with the Royals, who averaged 9,466 fans a game in 2018 and 10,774 in 2019, second in the NWSL behind only the Portland Thorns.

Hansen is in the process of selling Utah Soccer Holdings following the backlash to comments made on a Utah radio station about feeling disrespected by Real Salt Lake players, who joined players from other MLS teams in not playing as a protest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

No local buyer has so far been found un Utah.

Instead, the NWSL's 10th team in 2021 will be based in Kansas City. Like Utah, which inherited assets related to FC Kansas City, the new Kansas City team will be transferred all player rights, draft picks and certain other assets formerly held by the Royals.

Owners. The Kansas City group is led by the wife and husband team of Angie and Chris Long of Palmer Square Capital Management, based in Mission Woods, Kansas.

Also part of the ownership group are Jen Gulvik, who will serve as the new NWSL Kansas City team president, and Brittany Matthews, a former pro player and fitness entrepreneur and the fiancée of Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes.

Coach. Former FC Kansas City general manager Huw Williams will be the head coach. He was with FCKC when it won back-to-back NWSL championships in 2014 and 2015.

Stadium. No announcement about a home for the new team was made.

FC Kansas City bounced around from venue to venue, never averaging as many as 5,000 fans a game in its five seasons. It played at Shawnee Mission District Stadium in Overland Park, Kansas, Durwood Soccer Stadium on the UMKC campus and at Swope Soccer Village, which was used by Sporting KC for training.

The new NWSL team is unlikely to play at any of these venues or Sporting KC's Children’s Mercy Park, where FC Kansas City played one game in 2015.

Utah future. In relinquishing its NWSL ownership, Utah Soccer Holdings stated that the agreement will enable new ownership to re-establish the Royals name and franchise at Rio Tinto Stadium in 2023. 

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