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Report: Utah Royals’ future in question

Utah Royals could move or fold if an owner doesn’t come in soon.

Photo: Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

Earlier today, The Athletic published an article by Meg Linehan and Paul Tenorio outlining a potential move to Kansas City for Utah Royals FC. A source with Utah Soccer confirmed the team moving or folding is a very real possibility.

In November 2017, FC Kansas City ceased operations. This led to Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen purchasing the player contracts and starting Utah Royals FC.

Less than three years later, racist and sexist remarks from Hansen came to light; he agreed to sell Utah Soccer Holdings, LLC, the parent company that owns Real Salt Lake, Real Monarchs and Utah Royals FC.

On August 30, 2020 Hansen announced his intentions to sell, but there has been no sale months later and the organization is inching closer to the Major League Soccer imposed date of January 6, 2021 to sale. It’s unclear when the NWSL requires the team be sold, but Jeff Kassouf of Equalizer Soccer noted that if Hansen is still the owner on January 1st, the team won’t be able to access 2021 allocation money.

According to The Athletic’s reporting, the group reportedly interested in purchasing the team is headed by Angie and Chris Long, who are investors based in Kansas City. One major hurdle to overcome in where the team could play. Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City have made it clear that their stadium, Children’s Mercy Park, would not be an option.

The NWSL is certainly on the upswing. Racing Louisville will join the league in 2021, and Angel City FC and their superstar ownership group will join the following season. Viewership numbers for the league increased dramatically in 2020.

It would be a poor look for the league to be forced to fold or even move a team. Things for FC Kansas City did not end particularly well, and it would be odd for the team that essentially replaced them in the NWSL to them move to Kansas City.

The question then becomes, what does it take to keep the Royals in Utah? For all of Hansen’s faults, he brought NWSL soccer to Utah and built an organization with MLS, NWSL and USL teams, in addition to an impressive boys academy program with a girls development academy in the works. An owner coming in and taking over all of that is a tall order but is certainly what Utah soccer fans would want.