They're back! Utah Royals back in NWSL as league revives club with expansion team

Utah Royals 2023 return NWSL
Utah Royals FC
The NWSL is back in Utah as the league announced on Saturday that Utah Royals FC will be returning to the league as an expansion team.
  • Royals return to NWSL
  • Club moved to Kansas City in 2020
  • Set to begin play in 2024.

WHAT HAPPENED? The league confirmed that the team will begin play in 2024 and will be owned by David Blitzer and Ryan Smith, who owns MLS side Real Salt Lake. The Royals will play at America First Credit Union Field, RSL's home stadium. Team president Michelle Hynick will run the team's day-to-day operations, having previously played at Harvard and served as a general counsel for both RSL and the MLS league office.

The news comes nearly three years after the forced sale of both RSL and the Royals due to a toxic workplace culture and racist remarks under prior owner Dell Loy Hansen. The Royals were sold to Chris and Angie Long, who would move the team to Kansas City, while Blitzer and Smith purchased RSL.

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And now, two-and-a-half years later, the NWSL is officially returning to Utah.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: The NWSL has now expanded to 13 teams, having originally begun play with eight at the league's inception. The return to Utah will also be a major boost to the league, with the previous iteration of the Royals averaging the second-highest attendance in the league during their run, exceeding 11,000 fans per game.

WHAT WAS SAID: “When we acquired Real Salt Lake last year, we said it was a matter 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 fulfill 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 added . “Having professional women’s soccer back in the state has always been a top priority for David Blitzer and myself, and is very meaningful to us, the fans, our partners, and the entire state.” 

WHAT NEXT? The NWSL season is set to begin on March 25 as the 12-team league gets going for the 2023 campaign.