The Utah Royals will return to the NWSL as an expansion team in 2024, the league announced Saturday.
The club, which is the sister team to Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake, also He shared the news on his own Twitter account., revealing its crest, which features a lioness wearing a crown. The logo was designed by Philadelphia-based artist Tovah Kaiser and her team of mostly women.
“We’ve been told the lion is king of the jungle, but the lioness is true royalty,” a promotional video read. “While everyone rests, she gets to work. She’s quick and determined, a fearless leader, powerful and expressive. Stronger along with the power to persevere, this is the return of royalty: a team that represents all, led by women who empower women”. We are Utah Royals FC.”
Michelle Hyncik, former vice president of law and general counsel for Real Salt Lake, will serve as president of the Royals. She has MLS front office experience and played soccer as a student-athlete at Harvard University.
“As someone who attributes my entire livelihood to my on-court home, I will make it a priority to empower our Utah Royals players and the girls and boys who look up to them by providing state-of-the-art facilities, resources, staff, engagement and engagement. and opportunities to reach their full potential,” Hyncik said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this community and the Utah Soccer family as we bring world-class women’s soccer to Utah in 2024.”
History of the Utah Royals
The original Royals spent three seasons in Utah from 2018 to 2020 playing at Rio Tinto Stadium, now America First Credit Union Field, in Sandy, outside Salt Lake City. Despite not making the playoffs in his tenure, the club was very popular. According to the Utah KSL news, they were only one of two NWSL teams to average 10,000 or more fans per game, second only to the Portland Thorns.
In 2020, the team faced scrutiny when head coach Craig Harrington and assistant Louis Lancaster were suspended for verbally abusing and making sexual advances on players. Owner Dell Loy Hansen was criticized for expressing his disapproval of Real Salt Lake’s support of the racial justice movement. After being investigated for racist comments, he sold Utah Soccer Holdings, which consisted of the USL Royals, Real Salt Lake and Real Monarchs, at the end of the year.
The Royals moved east in December 2020 to become the Kansas City Current, whose ownership group includes Brittany and Patrick Mahomes.
In January 2022, Real Salt Lake transferred ownership to David Blitzer and Ryan Smith, who also co-owns the Utah Jazz. They said bringing the Utah Royals back was always part of their plan.
“We said it was a question of when, not if, the NWSL would return to Utah. This has always been an integral part of our mission. With today’s announcement, we are thrilled to deliver on the promise we made to our incredible fan base,” Blitzer said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to use our resources and platform to take women’s soccer to the next level while inspiring future players and fans globally.”
“We are excited to expand the ‘One Utah’ family and bring the Royals back to Utah,” Smith said. “Having professional women’s soccer back in the state has always been a priority for David Blitzer and I, and it is very meaningful to us, the fans, our partners and the entire state.”
NWSL Expansion Teams
In July, the NWSL announced that it would add two expansion teams in 2024 and a third later. The other two cities are Boston and the San Francisco area. The Wall Street Journal reports that the last two cities will pay a record entry fee of $50. Utah paid a much cheaper price, between $2 and $5 million.
Commissioner Jessica Berman said access to reproductive rights and abortion would be considered when awarding a city an expansion team in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Abortion up to 18 weeks pregnant is legal in Utah. A law that completely prohibits abortion is currently being reviewed.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Utah Royals will return to the NWSL as an expansion team in 2024