The National Women's Soccer League is making its return to the state of Utah. The league announced on Saturday that the latest expansion franchise, the Utah Royals, will begin playing in 2024. The club originally existed in NWSL in 2018 but folded in 2020 after the Challenge Cup and Fall Series, moving to Kansas City and becoming the Current after former owner Dell Roy Hansen was ousted by both the NWSL and Major League Soccer as owner of Real Salt Lake for racist remarks and a toxic workplace culture.
The two clubs are now owned by David Blitzer and Ryan Smith. The expansion fee for the franchise is reportedly between $2 million and $5 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"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," said Blitzer in a statement. "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."
Blitzer also owns stakes in Crystal Palace, Augsburg FC, GD Estoril Praia and Waasland-Beveren. He also is part owner of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers, while Smith owns the NBA's Utah Jazz.
"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 top priority for David Blitzer and myself, and is very meaningful to us, the fans, our partners, and the entire state."
The club will be led by president Michelle Hyncik, who was Real Salt Lake's General Counsel for the past three years. The team will once again play at America First Credit Union Field, where Real Salt Lake play.
"We are delighted to welcome Utah Royals FC and its dedicated fan base back into the league," NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said. "The return of the women's game to Utah, where soccer roots run deep, is a victory for players and fans alike. As the Royals begin this new chapter under the new ownership and leadership, I am confident the club will build a player-first organization equipped with the tools to thrive on and off the pitch."