NWSL announces return of Utah Royals in 2024 amid reports of 3-team expansion

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The Utah Royals are coming back after a four-season hiatus. (Jeffrey Swinger- Sports)

One of the new teams in the National Women’s Soccer League will be very familiar to fans.

The league is bringing back the Utah Royals, a team that existed from 2018 to 2020, for the 2024 season, it announced Saturday.

The expansion of the NWSL was previously reported to add teams in the Bay Area and Boston in addition to the return of Utah with a reported expansion fee of $50 million. Utah and the Bay Area are reportedly on track for 2024, while Boston will get its own team later.

The Utah ownership group is led by David Blitzer and Ryan Smith, who also own MLS’s Real Salt Lake. Smith also owns the NBA’s Utah Jazz, while Blitzer has stakes in several teams, including the Premier League’s Crystal Palace, the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Also in the ownership group are Daryl Morey, president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Jessica Gelman, CEO of Kraft Analytics Group. per ESPN, The group obtained its team at a significant discount compared to the other two expansion teams, reportedly paying between $2 million and $5 million.

The team will play its games at Real Salt Lake’s America First Credit Union Field and is run by team president Michelle Hinnick, a former Harvard Soccer player who has served as legal counsel for MLS and the RSL.

1st edition of Royals moves to Kansas City under cloud of scandal

The return of the Royals comes three years after the previous incarnation of the team was sold amid allegations against team owner Dale Loy Hansen, the Real Salt Lake owner, of racist comments and a toxic workplace culture, including the use of slurs. Included.

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Former Royals manager Craig Harrington was also among the many coaches and officials cited Reported to the NWSL/NWSL Players Association, for being verbally abusive and making sexual advances toward Royals players.

The Royals eventually ceased operations and their property was eventually sold to a group in Kansas City that included Brittany Mahomes, the wife of former Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes. That team became the Kansas City Current, which went 10–6–6 last season and reached the NWSL championship game.

While the Royals’ first time in Utah ended in scandal, the NWSL made sure to point out that fan support in the city was a major reason for its decision, saying the team had the second-highest average attendance during its three seasons of existence. .

When Blitzer and Smith bought Real Salt Lake, the deal reportedly came with an option to acquire an NWSL expansion team, and the result was Utah getting back a soccer team it had never lost. Was Needed.