NWSL confirms Utah Royals will move back to Kansas City ahead of 2021 season

Amy Rodriguez Utah Royals 2020
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Just three years after leaving, the franchise is set to return to Missouri after an outcry over comments this summer from owner Dell Loy Hansen

The National Women’s Soccer League has announced that Kansas City will be awarded an expansion team for the 2021 season, with the Utah Royals shutting down operations and transfering all players to the new Kansas City franchise.

The move comes just three years after the reverse move took place, with FC Kansas City shutting down operations in 2017 and transforming into the Utah franchise.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our league, and I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Kansas City back to the NWSL,” NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement.

“Kansas City is a soccer-rich community, and this fantastic ownership group is ready and able to commit the resources necessary for this club to be a massive success. I’d also like to thank the fans in Utah for their incredible support of the NWSL.”

The move comes after Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen found himself in trouble for comments made over players on MLS side Real Salt Lake, which he also owns, refusing to play a match this summer to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man, in Wisconsin.

Hansen has been forced to sell both teams. While MLS is looking to take over RSL while an ownership group is found, the NWSL has facilitated a transfer of ownership to a group led by wife and husband team Angie and Chris Long. 

“Chris and I could not be more ecstatic to welcome a team back to Kansas City, especially as the league has been transformed by innovative leadership and explosive growth. We are committed to getting this right – for our team and our town,” said Angie Long. 

“We can’t wait for the players and the country to see what we have long known: there’s something special about living in Kansas City and something even more special about playing here.”

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The new Kansas City franchise, which has yet to announce a name, will become the second team to join NWSL in 2021, along with expansion side Racing Louisville. 

Last month, Louisville began to build their roster in an expansion draft during which they selected U.S. women's national team stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press.

Following the integration of Kansas City and Louisville in 2021, Angel City FC in Los Angeles will join the league in 2022.