Official: NWSL is heading back to Kansas City in 2021

Utah Royals NWSL back to Kansas City

Women’s soccer is back in Kansas City. The NWSL announced on Monday morning that Kansas City would field a team playing in the upcoming 2021 season. However, this isn’t an addition to the 10 teams that are competing. Instead, the Kansas City team will be taking the place of the Utah Royals FC.

Due to the investigations surrounding Dell Loy Hansen for use of racist and sexist remarks, Hansen and his wife elected to sell the team, as well as Real Salt Lake and Real Monarchs. While there is no news for the men’s clubs, the women’s club will be transferred to Kansas City.

However, per a league announcement, the Utah Royals FC will retain the rights to their name and look for a new owner. The league expects them to push for a return to the NWSL in 2023.

“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. “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.”

Kansas City was formerly home to FC Kansas City, which folded after the 2017 season. In 2018, the team switched over to the Utah Royals FC. Now, with new owners, women’s soccer is making its return back to Kansas City.

However, it never quite left, in terms of fandom. Throughout the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019, video played of multiple fan watch-parties throughout the city with a booming amount of fans. Now, Kansas City gets a second chance with the NWSL.

Who are the new Kansas City owners?

There are a few notable names on the owners’ list for the new Kansas City club.

Angie and Chris Long spearheaded the movement. Angie Long is currently a chief investment officer for Palmer Square Capital Management, while Chris Long is the CEO. A majority of the ownership for the new club will be comprised of women, including Brittany Matthews, a fitness entrepreneur who is engaged to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“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,” Angie Long said. “We are committed to getting this right – for our team and our town. 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.”

Matthews, a former collegiate soccer player, said that she has a “true level” of appreciation for being a professional soccer player.

“I am honored to be part of an amazing ownership group that is passionate about the game and eager to welcome a NWSL team back to Kansas City,” Matthews said. “We have the greatest fans and community here in KC and I can’t wait to huddle around this team – we want more championship parades in the very near future!”

Also part of the group is Jen Gulvik, who will serve as the team president.

Kansas City already has a coach

While the name, colors and branding of the club will be announced in the coming weeks, the club already has one key focal area pinned down: the coach.

Huw Williams, who was the general manager of FC Kansas City from 2013-17, has been named the head coach. He takes over from Amy LePeilbet, who served as the Royals interim head coach in 2020. Williams has success in Kansas City, when he worked with FCKC head coach — and now current U.S. women’s national team head coach — Vlatko Andonovski.

Together, the duo won two NWSL Championship titles in 2014 and 2015.

“I’m thrilled and humbled to have earned the trust of the Long family and their ownership group, and look forward to representing our city and our players in the NWSL. I’ve long admired Angie and Chris not only professionally, but as friends. They bring a drive to succeed and a commitment to providing all the tools we need to deliver for our players and their fans,” Williams said. “I’m excited to work with all the players, and to reconnect with those I already know. In a league full of talent, it’s no surprise this roster is stacked with incredible athletes. I can’t wait to get started.”

“We have had the privilege of seeing firsthand how Huw builds a winning culture, inspiring teams with not only his work ethic and technical expertise, but with his intense love of the game and commitment to excellence,” Chris Long said. “He is already hard at work and will be a great leader for the club.”

What’s next for the club?

The new Kansas City club needs to lock down a place to play. According to multiple reports, Sporting Kansas City is not yet willing to share Children’s Mercy Park with the new NWSL club. However, it seems that there is some idea internally of where the club will hold competitions.

There’s a short time frame for this new team, though.

The NWSL season begins on Feb. 1, with players returning to their clubs for a preseason camp. According to the NWSL, the new Kansas City club will retain all Utah Royals players, draft picks and player rights.

The full schedule of the 2021 NWSL season is currently being created. However, an outline for how the league will operate in 2021 can be found on the NWSL’s official site.

Kansas City and Williams will now prepare for the upcoming NWSL College Draft, which will take place on Jan. 13, 2021.

 

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