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Utah Royals FC players celebrates for their second goal scored by Tziarra King (3) during a NWSL soccer game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.

Yukai Peng, Deseret News

Utah Royals FC reportedly moving to Kansas City

By Ryan Miller, | Updated - Dec. 5, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. | Posted - Dec. 5, 2020 at 6:18 p.m.

SANDY — Utah Royals FC is reportedly moving to Kansas City.

The Equalizer's Jeff Kassouf reported Saturday that while the sale of the team is not official, the National Women's Soccer League has informed the URFC players the team will be heading to Kansas City for the 2021 season. While not official, the sale is imminent, according to multiple reports.

The Athletic reports that the ownership group in Kansas City is simply waiting on URFC owner Dell Loy Hansen's signature, and that an official announcement is expected next week.

The team has been in Utah since Nov. 2017 when Hansen, the Real Salt Lake owner, took over the player contracts from FC Kansas City and formed the Royals. He said at the time that he wanted to create one of the best women's soccer clubs in the world.

Three years later that dream is dead. And it ended with a number of controversial moments in the final months.

The first public trouble came following the Real Salt Lake players' protest on Aug. 26 when they joined athletes from around the country in sitting out a match following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The day after the protest, Hansen publicly criticized his team's decision not to play.

Following Hansen's critics, reports surfaced of the owner using racist language forcing a review into Hansen's behavior by Major League Soccer.

In August, following the review, MLS announced Hansen would begin the process of selling Utah Soccer Holdings, the local company that owns the three teams that compete in MLS, the NWSL, and the second-division USL Championship.

The Royals' move to Kansas City is not expected to have any impact on the sale of RSL — the two clubs just can no longer be grouped together. If RSL is not sold by next month, it's anticipated MLS will take over running RSL until a buyer is found.

The decision for Hansen to sell the teams wasn't the end to the turmoil in the URFC organization, though. Shortly after, RSL Soapbox reported that some of the top members of the organization had made sexist comments about URFC players. Those included not using certain players for marketing purposes because they were deemed not pretty enough.

URFC head coach Craig Harrington was then placed on a leave of absence because of an investigation into misconduct. He was fired in November.

The team has also faced major losses on the pitch in the offseason. United State National Team star Christen Press was selected in the expansion draft after she was left unprotected and the team traded away USWNT starter Kelley O'Hara to Washington.

The team's departure under such poor circumstances overshadows a club that was well-supported in the Salt Lake Valley. In their first two seasons in Utah (2018, 2019), the Royals were second in the league in attendance. In 2018, the club averaged 10,774 fans for home games. In 2019, the club averaged 9,466.

That support was there despite lukewarm results on the pitch. URFC never made the playoffs in its short time in Utah.

Ryan Miller


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