Utah Royals FC sold to Kansas City owners, may return in 2023

SANDY — It’s official: the Utah Royals FC are no more. But included in the announcement is hope the club could return as early as 2023.

The club announced Monday morning that Utah Soccer LLC — the parent company that owns the Royals, Real Salt Lake, and Real Monarchs — has sold the rights to the professional women’s soccer franchise to an ownership group led by Chris and Angie Long in Kansas City.

After three years on the Wasatch Front, the club whose players once played under the FC Kansas City moniker will be moving immediately.

“We love the Utah soccer community and have been honored to work with these world-renowned professional women athletes,” said Utah Royals FC owners Dell Loy and Julie Hansen in a prepared statement. “We will truly miss our athletes who have become our friends. We lend our full support to new owners who can continue our vision to have the women’s team equal to the men’s team in time, facilities, and resources and who can help shepherd the team into a new era of growth and success.”

Hansen announced his intent to sell Utah Soccer back in August, after several reported missteps and allegations of racially charged and sexist behavior occurred in the three-team organization under his watch. Monday’s announcement closes the door on his tenure as owner of the National Women’s Soccer League franchise in Utah.

But it also cracks open a chance for the club’s return, including under the same name and brand.

The team officially finished 18-14-17 in three seasons in Utah, never making the NWSL Cup playoffs while enjoying significant success off the field. Playing at Rio Tinto Stadium in harmony with RSL, the Royals were one of just two teams in the league to average more than 10,000 fans per game (soccer-mad Portland was the other), and attracted as much attention off the field as on it.

When the league needed a host to play out a portion of its 2020 season amid the global coronavirus pandemic, the Royals donated $900,000 to help established a bubble around Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman to play the NWSL Championship Cup — becoming the first North American pro sports league to return to play following the national shutdown of professional sports.

From selling out its home opener against the Chicago Red Stars in front of a standing-room only crowd of 19,023 on March 28, 2018 until its final game, the support from the crowd was, at many times, overwhelming, while watching stars like U.S. women’s national team members Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press and Kelley O’Hara.

“When I first arrived to Salt Lake City three years ago, what stood out was the overwhelming support and excitement from the community,” Utah Royals FC general manager Stephanie Lee said. “I hope fans have solace that women’s professional soccer will be back.”

That’s the thing that most players, whose contracts have now been transferred to the Kansas City group — whose name and brand have yet to be unveiled…

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