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SANDY — Multiple sources reported that Utah will be one of two new groups expected to join the National Women's Soccer League in 2024 following the departure of the Royals in 2020.
Jeff Kassouf was the first to report the news for ESPN, saying that "multiple sources throughout the league are already operating under the assumption of Utah's return." Kassouf said newly-appointed NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman confirmed to ESPN that two teams will be added for the 2024 season.
The Utah Royals were originally established in 2017 and played in the NWSL from 2018-20. The team was moved to Kansas City in 2020 as the expansion side now known as the Kansas City Current. The transfer was done with the caveat that the next owners of Real Salt Lake after Dell Loy Hansen would have the option to bring the club back to Utah as early as 2023.
When Ryan Smith and David Blitzer purchased RSL in January 2022, Blitzer said the return of the Royals would be "a function of when, not if."
No official announcement has been made by RSL or the owners or the NWSL, but the ESPN reports suggest the time of the return will be 2024, amid rapidly growing interest in women's soccer ownership in the U.S.
Kassouf included as part of his report that "franchise valuations have increased tenfold in a two-year period, and there are more groups interested in joining the league than there are available spots."
For @ESPNFC: Everything you need to know about #NWSL expansion— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) June 30, 2022
🔹2 teams for 2024
🔹Utah's return expected as 1
🔹Which cities fighting for 1 spot
🔹Expansion fee guidance
🔹Exclusive insights from commissioner Jessica Bermanhttps://t.co/W0gRF5Hedlpic.twitter.com/jtfUDbKsF6
The original inception of the Royals occurred in the run-up to the 2019 Women's World Cup, and a 2024 return would coincide with the 2023 Women's World Cup as interest in the sport is, once again, set to increase.
The U.S. Women's National Team attracted 16,000 fans to Rio Tinto Stadium this week for a friendly against Colombia, which it won 2-0. Former Royal Kelley O'Hara scored the second goal in the match and spoke with the media about her time in Utah.
"I didn't have the best record in terms of getting playing time in with Utah unfortunately, but the crowd was rowdy — great fans," O'Hara said.
O'Hara joined Becky Sauerbrunn and Christen Press as the U.S. Women's National Team stars to appear for the Royals during their initial time in Utah.