Utah Royals to Relocate to Kansas City in 2021

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The National Women's Soccer League's board of governors approved an expansion team in Kansas City, following the winding down of operations by Utah Royals FC. 

All player rights, draft picks, and certain other assets formerly held by Utah Royals FC will be transferred to the new team, which will begin playing in Kansas City in 2021.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for our league, and I'm absolutely thrilled to welcome Kansas City back to the NWSL,” said 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 club's new ownership group is led by Chris and Angie Long, who live in Kansas City. Chris is the chairman, CEO and portfolio manager of Palmer Square Capital Management, while Angie is the company's chief investment officer and portfolio manager. The group also includes Brittany Matthews, a former professional soccer player and fitness entrepreneur. Matthews also is the fiancee of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Jeff Kassouf of The Equalizer reported on Saturday that the players for the NWSL's Utah Royals were the team would be relocating to Kansas City. The move had been considered "imminent" for some time now, per Kassouf, and was awaiting the sale of the team to be finalized. 

The sale of the franchise comes months after owner Dell Loy Hansen made derisive comments about his Real Salt Lake players' decision to not play their MLS game against LAFC in August following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc. Hansen said he felt "disrespected" by the players' choice to sit out at the time.

"All I can say is they supported other issues nationally; they clearly did not support our city or our organization," Hansen said. "It's a moment of sadness. It's like somebody stabbed you and you're trying to figure out a way to pull the knife out and move forward. That’s what it feels like. The disrespect is profound to me personally."

Following his comments, others in the sports world alleged that Hansen had a history of making racist comments. A former employee compared Hansen to longtime Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was banned by the NBA for life and forced to sell the franchise in 2014 after private recordings of him making racist remarks were made public.

In August, it was announced that Hansen would begin the process of selling his teams just days after he took a leave of absence as MLS and the NWSL launched an investigation into the allegations.

Kansas City was the home to NWSL club FC Kansas City from 2012 to 2017, when the team shut down operations. FC Kansas City, which won back-to-back league titles in 2014 and 2015, had its roster and player rights transferred to the new NWSL franchise that became the Utah Royals. Former FC Kansas City general manager Huw Williams has been named as the head coach of the new NWSL Kansas City club.

The Royals, whose home stadium was Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, hosted this summer's NWSL Challenge Cup. The team came in fifth in the preliminary round before losing on penalties in the quarterfinals.