Last week, Utah Royals FC announced they were creating a new reserve team to compete in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. The new team, dubbed Utah Royals FC Reserves, will be a new entry into the second tier of women’s soccer in America.
Alongside this news, mentioned as part of the club press release, was the announcement that Real Salt Lake Women would be discontinued. Readers of this site may be familiar with RSL Women, but many among the RSL Family have been unaware of this team that has a significant history in women’s soccer in Utah.
Though the press release mentioned 2015 as the start of RSL Women, the team actually goes back to 2008 when it began as Sparta United. They later changed their name to Salt Lake United before being invited to take on the RSL Women name in 2013. They played in WPSL for their first eight seasons before moving with several W-League and WPSL teams to create United Women’s Soccer (UWS) in 2016.
This marks a rather disappointing end to what could have been a very strong precursor to URFC. While the team did play one season on RSL’s practice field in Sandy, and a few matches at Rio Tinto Stadium, they largely used high school or college fields and played to small crowds mostly made up of the family and friends of the players. Whatever the reasons were, RSL failed to raise significant awareness of their women’s team for the last six years, eventually letting them fade away into the shadow of their new NWSL club.
Instead of inviting their existing coaches and players who have proudly worn the team crest for the past six years to take their place as the official reserve team, the decision has been made to leave this part of the RSL Family behind and replace it with something different. There will be some, this writer included, who will see joining WPSL rather than staying in UWS as a step back in terms of competition. Though both leagues form the entirety of the second division in the United States, there were clear competitive reasons why the teams which founded UWS left their old leagues to start something new.
Hopefully some of the players and coaches will get the opportunity to form part of the new URFC Reserves roster through the upcoming tryout process, as there are several outstanding players who have been a part of the team for many years, including players like Colette Smith who was called on to the Royals FC roster as a replacement player for one match in 2018.
Of course, the establishment of an official reserve team is a good step forward for the Royals FC team. Unlike RSL Women, this team will be much more closely integrated with Laura Harvey and her coaches, and will function as a true second team to offer minutes to practice players and those who can be called in due to injury or national team invites. They will have the full support of the club, including a consistent home playing field, and will likely be involved in some way with more of the first team training as the Monarchs are for RSL.
While it’s unfortunate that RSL Women will no longer be a team as a result of this, they have extended their best wishes and support for URFC and their reserve club going forward, continuing their long-standing mission to support the growth of women’s soccer in Utah and all across America.