Utah Royals hire first-ever sporting director to begin roster, staff construction


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Royals FC announced the hire of former Reading FC women's coach Kelly Cousins as its first-ever sporting director Tuesday.

Cousins is the team's third hire after the Royals' return to the NWSL was announced in March, joining president Michelle Hyncik and head coach Amy Rodriguez.

The hire comes just days before the start of the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and four months before the end of the 2023 NWSL season, when the draft and player acquisition process will begin in earnest for the Royals.

The primary duty of the new sporting director, according to the Royals' release, is to "oversee the construction of the 2024 roster," when the team will begin play in the NWSL. Cousins will also "lead the charge of hiring the necessary technical and support staff," ahead of the inaugural 2024 season.

"I am really looking forward to bringing my knowledge and experience to build a roster, a culture and most importantly a place that gives players everything they need to be able to perform at their best'," Cousins said.

Cousins spent her entire soccer career 40 miles outside of London in Reading, England. She began as a player at Reading Football Club Women — also known as the Royals — in 2007 and moved directly into the front office as Director of Women's and Girl's Football as injuries forced her early retirement in 2013.

She became head coach of the women's club a year later in 2014 and led the team to promotions twice, from the third tier of English soccer all the way to the top-flight Women's Super League in 2015.

"Kelly is truly a Swiss army knife of soccer operations," Hyncik said. "From strategic planning, squad management and infrastructure building, to scouting and recruitment, to coaching, to everything in between — she has done it all."

It was recently announced that the Royals will select first in the 2024 NWSL Entry Draft, formerly known as the College Draft. The date is still to be determined, but typically the draft takes place in January.

The Royals are also hosting Women's World Cup watch parties both Friday, July 21 — USA vs. Vietnam — and Wednesday, July 26 — USA vs. the Netherlands — at the Gallivan Center, with pre-match festivities opening at 6:00 p.m. MDT and continuing until 10:00 p.m. MDT.

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Caleb Turner covers Real Salt Lake as the team's beat writer for KSL.com, in addition to his role where he oversees the sports team's social media accounts.

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