According to a report this evening in the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah Royals FC are expected to announce the signing of defender Becky Sauerbrunn as the first official player in club history.
Though the Royals had agreed to honor all prior contracts held by or offered to the FC Kansas City roster, there were still questions around how many of them would make the move to Utah until the team started making announcements. In receiving a commitment from Sauerbrunn, the only player in NWSL history to make the league’s Best XI all five seasons, the new team has a strong leader in place to build around.
Sauerbrunn was the team captain at FCKC, and has also served as co-captain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team alongside Carli Lloyd since winning the World Cup in 2015. She is also one of the leading voices in the conversation with U.S. Soccer regarding the collective bargaining agreements for working towards equitable compensation for female players.
Though it remains to be seen how many more of the FCKC players will stay and be Royals in 2018, having Sauerbrunn’s presence is a stabilizing force in convincing her teammates to join her and build something great in Utah, as well as a drawing point for others who might look to make their names establishing women’s professional soccer in Salt Lake City.
This is a great move for the team as it is a good sign of support for the groundwork that has been laid down to see a player of this stature feel comfortable agreeing to play here. Her willingness to be a part of this club will give confidence to others who may have had concerns about joining a new organization, and she will make a great asset for Craig Waibel and Laura Harvey as they reach out to others to fill out the roster.
UPDATE, Dec. 21: The club has officially signed Becky Sauerbrunn as the first official signing for Utah Royals FC. The latest press release from the club includes high praise from both head coach Laura Harvey as well as Sauerbrunn herself.
From the club-issued press release:
"Becky is one of the best players the NWSL has seen over its five-year existence," Royals FC Head Coach Laura Harvey said. "To have her join us in Utah is really exciting, and to be able to build our Club around a player like Becky is a huge development for this team. I'm really looking forward to working with her."
"I'm incredibly excited to start this new adventure in Utah," Sauerbrunn said. "To me it's very clear that Owner Dell Loy Hansen and the Club's management wants to provide those in the locker room with every possible chance to win a championship right out of the gates. Everything in Utah is going to be world-class and it's a really exciting thing to be a part of."
Wirtjo Leonard contributed the update to this story.