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URFC Historical Moments, #1: Utah Royals FC formally announced as expansion team

The rumors were true: a new team NWSL team in Utah was going to start playing in 2018.

Photo: Roscoe Myrick, 2018

On November 16, 2017, RSL announced that it had acquired a franchise in the NWSL. Four days later, FC Kansas City ceased operations, and all player rights from FCKC would be inherited by the Utah expansion team for the 2018 season. On December 1, 2017, NWSL fans and Utah soccer fans checked their phones and saw this tweet.

A new era was starting in the NWSL as Utah Royals FC was officially launched with the announcements of its team name, branding, season tickets for home games at Rio Tinto Stadium, and social media. The logo paid homage to the royalty of Utah soccer and a landmark of Arches National Park.

The team was welcomed to the Salt Lake Valley with open arms. Legendary women’s soccer coach Laura Harvey was hired as the franchise’s head coach, eventually bringing Scott Parkinson as assistant head coach. The jerseys were later revealed, and USWNT star Becky Sauerbrunn was announced as the first player committed to playing to Utah in 2018.

From there, Kelley O’Hara was the next to join via a trade along with Taylor Lytle. Gunny Jonsdottir and Rachel Corsie also signed. Canadian internationals Desiree Scott and Diana Matheson also joined as well as NWSL legends Mandy Laddish and Erika Tymrak.

Nothing made everything feel more real, not even the new locker room built for the team at Rio Tinto Stadium, than the day the schedule was announced. On February 21, fans found out they had just a month and three days until the first game in club history. A road game in Orlando is how the team would get things started.

But regardless of everything that happened on the field in that inaugural season, the biggest thing that happened with this team was the love and support that the Utah community gave the club and its players.

Bringing an NWSL team to Utah wasn't something anyone expected, but from the day of their announcement until the day they were sold and even from then on, the love that Utah soccer fans had for URFC never wavered. With the second best home-attendance in the league, an unprecedented amount of season ticket holders for a first year team, and a nearly sold out home-opener, the love was always there for this team.