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Utah Royals coaching changes signal new emphasis on youth development

Two new additions to the coaching staff and a promotion point to Utah’s development strategy

Amy LePeilbet
Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

Utah Royals FC have promoted assistant coach Amy LePeilbet to Director of Professional Development, hired Louis Lancaster as an assistant coach, and hired Caitlin Young to serve as both an assist coach and Youth Technical Director. These moves, particularly the promotion of LePeilbet and hire of a Youth Technical Director in Young, show the club is looking to get more involved in youth development.

The newest team in the NWSL started the year with the news that Laura Harvey had departed from her role as head coach. A month later, the team announced Craig Harrington would be taking that position. Harrington, a former assistant with Chicago Red Stars, isn’t new to being a head coach, but this is his first time as a head coach within the NWSL. Harrington has experience at the academy level, most notably for LA Galaxy from 2010-2013.

The only other name that was released as a potential candidate to replace Harvey was Scott Parkinson. Parkinson was given the Interim Head Coach title after having served as an assistant under Harvey for the previous two seasons. Upon announcing Harrington as the new coach, Utah Royals also stated that Parkinson had left the team. He has since taken Harrington’s old post in Chicago as an assistant coach under Rory Dames. His departure left an open position on the Royals’ technical staff, and the team has added two new assistant coaches in addition to the promotion of Amy LePeilbet.

Amy LePeilbet, the former US Women’s National Team defender, landed in Utah to coach club soccer with the Utah Avalanche after retiring from play in 2015. During her time as a player, LePeilbet won gold with the USWNT at the 2012 Olympics and the NWSL Championship in 2014 and 2015 with FC Kansas City. She joined the Royals staff ahead of team’s inaugural season in 2018. In addition to her duties as an assistant, she coached the Utah Royals FC Reserves in 2019, taking the team to the Women’s Premier Soccer League final in their first season.

The reserve team played in the WPSL and was an early sign of the organizations desire to become more involved in the development of young players. The WPSL runs a much shorter schedule than the NWSL. For readers who are less familiar with the WPSL, it operates very differently than the relationship between Real Salt Lake (MLS) and Real Monarchs (USL), where their seasons are almost congruent and we see player movement between teams. The WPSL is made up of mostly college and semi-professional players and is often used as a development league.

LePeilbet’s new role is an expansion of some of her current responsibilities: she will continue as an assistant, but now will oversee the pathway for college and semi-professional players to the first team. General Manager Stephanie Lee told RSL Soapbox, “Amy is going to be an assistant coach and our director of professional development. She will take them (players) from the college/WPSL range and help them develop into a true professional. What I love about that plan is that Amy is a true professional.”

That’s not where the plan ends for Utah Royals, however. Caitlin Young has worked with youth in Utah for her career, including coaching ODB and club soccer. She’s a person that has a good deal of familiarity with youth soccer in the state and her hire marks an interest from the club at developing local youth players into professionals.

Louis Lancaster joins the team with an impressive resume. He’s coaches boys academy teams in England, including Arsenal and Watfard. He has UEFA Pro License and most recently was the head coach of the Taiwan National Team. Stephanie Lee referred to Lancaster as bringing a tactical mindset to the team.

Overall, these moves show that the future of the Royals may be very similar to Real Salt Lake’s approach to playing youth. RSL has been known for their academy and ability to develop players. The RSL organization as a whole values a development pipeline for both players and the front office, as evidenced in RSL General Manager Elliot Fall and URFC General Manager Stephanie Lee. Both entered the organization in different roles, but grew into their current leadership positions. What this pipeline looks like on the Royals side has yet to be seen, but shows a longterm plan for the growth of women’s soccer in Utah.