The Utah Royals FC has its first player, and she’s someone with ties to Utah.
The team announced Wednesday that it acquired former BYU women’s soccer player Mikayla Cluff. The team also got the 26th pick in the deal with the Orlando Pride in exchange for $90,000 in allocation money and expansion protection.
Cluff is signed through the 2025 season.
“While I’ve enjoyed my time in Orlando over the last two seasons, I’m extremely excited to return to play in my hometown and bring back this Club for the state and for the fans,” Cluff said in a news release.
Cluff, a Kaysville native, played for the Cougars from 2017-2021. In 2019, she played for the Utah Royals reserve team during the club’s first stint in the Beehive state before it moved to Kansas City.
At BYU, Cluff was three times named the West Coast Conference’s player of the year and helped lead the Cougars to the 2021 national title game. She was the No. 14 pick in the 2021 NWSL draft. She has appeared in more than 50 matches, recording four goals and one assist for Orlando.
“We’re so excited to welcome Mikayla back to Utah,” Royals head coach Amy Rodriguez said in a release. “A player who has had so much success in the state at both the collegiate and high school level and has now shown to be an excellent NWSL player. She offers versatility in the midfield, which is so valuable in an expansion year.
“When evaluating players, we also put a big emphasis on their character and Mikayla is a great first step in building the culture we want in our locker room. We know how much she is loved in this state, and we can’t wait for our fans to cheer her on in Utah again.”
The Royals, who also own the No. 1 pick in the December draft, will begin their second stint in Utah next year.
“Bringing Kayla home is a key first step as we build out the 2024 roster,” said URFC Sporting Director Kelly Cousins. “We are elated to welcome her home, we know our fans cannot wait to fill America First Field and cheer on Utah’s own, and we look forward to several more player announcements in the coming days and weeks.”
The club first came to Utah in 2018 after former owner Dell Loy Hansen purchased the contracts of the players who were on the now-defunct FC Kansas City. For two seasons, Utah’s NWSL team averaged nearly 10,000 fans per game at the former Rio Tinto Stadium.
But the Royals moved to Kansas City in December 2020 two months after Hansen announced he would sell Utah Soccer LLC, the holding company that also included RSL and Real Monarchs.
New owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith announced in March they would resurrect Utah Royals FC through the league’s expansion process.