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Soccer

Utah Royals To Relocate To Kansas City

two nwsl players fight for a ball
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Just three years after Kansas City lost their women’s professional soccer team to Salt Lake City, it is coming right back. Meg Linehan of The Athletic reported Saturday that players on the Utah Royals had been informed that their team is relocating to Kansas City. According to Linehan’s reporting, the deal is not final, but it is expected to be finalized soon.

This is a real loss for Utah. In 2019, the Royals averaged nearly 11,000 fans per game, the second-highest average in the NWSL. For their stay in Salt Lake City, their future seemed optimistic. When current owner Dell Loy Hansen purchased the team in 2017, he promised they would be treated equally to the city’s MLS team. He also helped save this year’s championship by allowing the NWSL to use their facilities for their playoff bubble. But in August, The Athletic reported a series of damning articles detailing racist statements made by Hansen and how the culture turned toxic under his control.

Because the NWSL did not have the financial liquidity to buy back the team from Hansen, the team is being sold to a group of investors, and those investors want the team back in Kansas City. The new majority owners of the team are reported to be Angie and Chris Long of Palmer Square Capital. The Equalizer reported that they will be joined by former professional soccer player and online fitness influencer Brittany Matthews. Matthews is currently engaged to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Kansas City is a soccer town. Their MLS team, Sporting Kansas City, was founded in 1995 and celebrated their 25th anniversary by getting absolutely clobbered 3-0 by Minnesota United in a playoff game. When the NWSL was founded in 2012, Kansas City was a natural choice, as the city has a history of soccer fandom that should allow a women’s team to thrive.

But the team has not ever and does not expect to receive any support from the men’s team. Sporting Kansas City refused to buy the team in 2017, forcing them to relocate to Utah in the first place. And now that the team is returning, The Athletic reported that they are refusing to lease their stadium to the women’s team. The new ownership has not announced what the new team will be called, but for now, there are two Royals teams in Kansas City.

Correction (2:30 p.m. ET): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated when the Minnesota United defeated Sporting Kansas City. It was on Thursday, not Saturday.