Utah Royals to relocate to Kansas City

Selling the NWSL team is the first move in the ongoing sale of Utah Soccer by Dell Loy Hansen.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A little Utah Royals FC fan waves a big flag, during soccer action between Utah Royals FC and Ol Reign FC at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.

Utah Royals FC is set for a move to Kansas City, and the players were informed of the move Saturday, The Salt Lake Tribune confirmed. The news was first reported by The Equalizer and The Athletic.

The sale of the team is not yet finalized, but is expected to be soon, per reports. Chris and Angie Long, executives at Palmer Square Capital Management, are reportedly the prospective owners. Joining the Longs, per The Equalizer, is former professional soccer player Brittany Matthews.

The Longs emerged as prospective buyers a couple of weeks ago. Palmer Square is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and was founded by Chris Long in 2009. Angie Long is listed as the company’s chief investment officer.

The Royals moving to Kansas City is the first move in the ongoing sale of Utah Soccer, which includes the Royals, Real Salt Lake and the Real Monarchs. Dell Loy Hansen is selling the teams and facilities in which they play after allegations of racist and sexist behavior surfaced in August.

The move raises questions about RSL and the Monarchs and whether there is interest to keep them in Utah or relocate them elsewhere. Hansen has until Jan. 8 to sell RSL before Major League Soccer steps in and takes over the sale process.

The Royals have been mired by several difficulties over the last several months, starting with the allegations brought against Hansen and his chief business officer, Andy Carroll. The two men allegedly contributed to a toxic workplace culture that involved Carroll not wanting to use certain Royals players in promotions if he did not deem them attractive enough.

Those reports led to Hansen’s announcement that he will sell the teams, and also to investigations into him and Carroll by MLS and the National Women’s Soccer League. And while those things were happening off the field, the team struggled on it.

Craig Harrington was fired as head coach, and two U.S. Women’s Soccer Team stars — Christen Press and Kelley O’Hara — left the team. Becky Sauerbrunn was also traded before the 2020 season began.

The Royals came to Utah in 2018 after Hansen purchased the contracts of players who were on the now defunct FC Kansas City. The team cemented itself as a fixture in the soccer community in Salt Lake City, averaging about 10,000 fans in 2018 and 2019 combined.

The Royals did not make the playoffs in their first two NWSL seasons.