A couple of weeks ago, when it was reported that there was a real possibility that Utah Royals FC would relocate to Kansas City, many of us hoped it wouldn’t be true, that a local owner or a group would want to invest in the team to #KeepUtahRoyal.
Unfortunately, with time running out, as Utah Soccer Holdings, LLC. remained to be sold, and the uncertainty on what would happen to Utah Royals FC if Dell Loy Hansen did not sell by the deadline of January 8th, the NWSL had to be proactive. They couldn’t wait for someone to buy the whole organization, and wonder if the new owner wanted to even continue investing in the Royals. And well, now we’re here.
The NWSL did find an ownership group, ironically in Kansas City, the very same city that saw its team fold in 2017 and move to Utah. The new ownership group includes Angie and Chris Long of Palner Square Capital and former professional soccer player and certified fitness trainer Brittany Matthews, who is engaged to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
It’s not the outcome we wanted for the Royals. It is so unfair that the NWSL’s second market is now without a team, a fanbase left in disbelief, and no one in Utah willing to save the team to remain in Salt Lake City. But perhaps everything we saw in 2020 was a sign.
Throughout the year, we witnessed URFC slowly fall apart: Laura Harvey left, then Scott Parkinson, Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press, Vero Boquete, Kelley O’Hara. We celebrated the hiring of a new coach only to discover he was not a good coach, terminated for making inappropiate comments of sexual nature to his staff. And then, the cherry on top, the owner forced to sell for his racist and sexist remarks throughout the years, the mastermind behind a poorly-managed organization and toxic culture. Hansen, for bringing an NWSL team to Utah, did not deserve to continue as owner, righly so, and now, Utah fans are left crushed in spirit.
It’s never easy to lose an NWSL team. You can ask Boston Breakers fans and FC Kansas City fans when they saw their teams fold in 2017. I feel for the Utah community that has now joined this list. I never imagined that a team so successful in its market would be taken away like this. But sadly, everything we learned about Hansen and how he ran the organization needed to be public. There’s no room for racism and sexism as many work to fight against it, and no billionaire is exempt from the consequences.
Utah fans, it’s okay to feel all the emotions you’re feeling. Take time to grieve, reflect, step away, if needed. Eventually, though, continue to support the league. I know it won’t be the same. It’ll be gut-wrenching to see the players you supported play in another city, especially a rival soccer city. But if you want to continue supporting the Utah players in KC, I’ll be right there with you. When the KC players moved to Utah, I wanted to continue supporting the players and was able to join RSL Soapbox and welcomed to be a part of the community from afar. It’s only fair I continue as they return. If you pick another NWSL team until URFC potentially returns in 2023, it’s understandable.
To the KC fans, I know you’ve been hoping for another opportunity that the NWSL would return. Not at the expense of another city, of course. The NWSL community is a tight one, and if one team falls, the entire NWSL supporter groups feel it, too. But KC, I’m hopeful it goes better this time around, that the new ownership group does not neglect its team, that it markets the team well, and that they fight for them to play in a stadium of professional standards.
This sale is bittersweet for me. I’ll be finishing as Utah Royals FC Editor with RSL Soapbox and continuing to cover the KC team with The Blue Testament. But we hope, at RSL Soapbox, to send off the team to KC with a proper farewell as members of Soapbox share their best memories, and we’ll finalize it with our top moments.
To Matt Montgomery, Lucas Muller, and the RSL Soapbox staff: From the beginning, you wanted this site to cover the Royals as well as you covered RSL. You did so, admirably. Thank you for all of your time, effort, and energy to cover URFC.
Take care of yourselves, Utah friends. Be proud that you gave this team three seasons of love and support that couldn’t be rivaled by markets that have had a team longer.