Utah Royals FC coach Laura Harvey said she believes that with the foundation the new NWSL team already has, not many players would turn down an offer from it.

In Becky Sauerbrunn’s case, Harvey was right.

“It’s pretty amazing what they’re doing,” said Sauerbrunn, co-captain of the U.S. women’s national team. “And they want Utah Royals to be a team that everyone wants to play for after they come and play us because they’re going to see [the facilities] and see how we’re treated, and I think they’re definitely taking the right steps to make that happen.”

As expected, the Royals announced Thursday that Sauerbrunn had committed to the team, becoming the first player promised to appear on the Utah Royals roster next season.

The rights to Sauerbrunn, along with the rest of defunct FC Kansas City’s former players, already had been assigned to Utah Royals FC when Kansas City ceased operations Nov. 20. While much of the roster is expected to stay intact, it has yet to be seen exactly how much.

When it came to which players the Royals should secure early, Sauerbrunn was an obvious choice. The 32-year-old defender is a World Cup champion, Olympic gold medalist and two-time NWSL champion. She has earned 135 caps with the United States, been named NWSL Defender of the Year three times and selected to the NWSL Best XI every year of the league’s existence.

“To have her join us in Utah is really exciting,” Harvey said in a team release, “and to be able to build our club around a player like Becky is a huge development for this team.”

For Sauerbrunn, committing to Utah gave her a chance to continue playing with Kansas City teammates she knows well and loves. She also said she was excited about playing for a coach she’d come to respect as an opponent and whose philosophy she believed in.

Sauerbrunn’s commitment also finally solidified her destination for the 2018 season after months of uncertainty.

By the time it became clear that FC Kansas City wouldn’t survive past the 2017 season, Sauerbrunn pretty much had heard every rumor out there about the fate of the team.

“It was madness,” she said. “… We had heard rumors that we were getting moved to Minnesota, we had heard that U.S. Soccer was going to take over operations of the team, we had heard that the team was going to fold, we heard San Jose was going to take over. So there were just so many rumors, and none of us had heard about Real Salt Lake taking us over.”

Yet it was RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen who launched an NWSL team over the span of just two weeks, eventually acquiring the rights to FC Kansas City players when the club officially folded days later.

“When we heard, a lot of us were really excited because we knew that the organization was going to treat the players right,” Sauerbrunn said, “and that’s what we really want is to be treated as professional first-rate players.”


Position • Defender

Hometown • St. Louis

College • University of Virginia