The rights to FC Kansas City players will be assigned to Real Salt Lake’s new National Women’s Soccer League team, the league announced Monday.
The NWSL has re-acquired FC Kansas City’s membership interest in the league, and the club has ceased operations. The announcement comes four days after RSL announced that it is launching an NWSL team for the 2018 season.
While the Salt Lake side is technically a new club, it also will be assigned Kansas City’s 2018 draft picks, positions in the discovery and waiver tiebreakers, and distribution ranking order. The RSL-owned-and-operated team also will receive the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.
“Having lived through this, it’s not the easiest thing to go through,” general manager Craig Waibel, who was on the San Jose Earthquakes team that moved to Houston in 2005, told The Salt Lake Tribune. “But the way we as an organization plan to welcome these women here, and the way that we know the community is going welcome these women here, is what we believe is going to tip the scale in our favor in terms of the overall experience. We’re never going to eliminate all the stress, but what we can do is make this a really pleasant and positive experience for them in terms of the transition.”
Waibel described the Blues roster, which includes women’s national team players Becky Sauerbrunn and Sydney Leroux, as “very talented.” But it is not the final product for next year. The Utah-based team plans to hire a new coach before it makes any roster moves, Waibel told the Tribune. In a press conference on Thursday he said he would interview RSL’s top candidate for the position in the next couple days. He told the Tribune he hopes to hire a head coach in the next two weeks.
“We have to take the necessary steps,” Waibel told the Tribune, “hire a coach and go through the process of evaluating the roster in terms of style of play and formation and things like that.“
The 2018 NWSL Collage Draft is scheduled for January 18, and RSL general manager Craig Waibel said in Thursday’s press conference that he would also scout locally.
This past season FC Kansas City finished seventh in the 10-team league, eight points out of the playoffs. Sauerbrunn was voted to the NWSL Best XI for the fifth time this year, making her the only player to receive the honor every season of the league’s existence. Leroux led FCKC with six goals, and she logged two assists in her 23 appearances.
The Blues cease operations in Kansas City less than a year after coming under new ownership. Elam Baer, chief executive officer of North Central Equity LLC, bought the team in January.
“This is the best and necessary decision for the future of the league and the players who have impressively represented NWSL and Kansas City over the past five years,” Baer said in a league release. “I will always be a fan of the game, the league, our players and, above all, our fans. I wish the NWSL a bright future and our former FC Kansas City players continued success in their careers on and off the field. I am sure the players will add another championship to the two they already brought to Kansas City.”
Rumors of a change of ownership for the two-time NWSL champions circulated throughout the last two months of the club’s existence. Then former Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski resigned from his post with the Blues two weeks ago, opting to replace Laura Harvey as the Seattle Reign FC coach.
FC Kansas City, one of the eight original members of the NWSL, reached the playoffs in the league’s inaugural 2013 season. The Blues then turned around and won the NWSL Championship in 2014 and 2015. They have not qualified for a postseason since.