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Utah Royals relocating to Kansas City, home to one of NWSL’s original franchises

After a rejected overture to Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler, KC owners Angie and Chris Long found a team.

2014 NWSL Championship - FC Kansas City v Seattle Reign
Amy Rodriguez #8 of FC Kansas City celebrates after scoring a goal int he second half of the National Women’s Soccer League Championship on August 31, 2014 at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Washington.
Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images

It wasn’t a secret that Angie and Chris Long wanted into the NWSL.

Discussions were happening over the summer, and figuring out the right way to bring a team back to Kansas City was the goal.

In the early stages of those discussions, amid a new budding friendship, Angie pitched an off-the-cuff idea to Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler.

“She knew that Chicago was looking for investors and wondered aloud whether or not [the Red Stars] could be in Kansas City,” Whisler said.

Whisler immediately shot down the idea telling Long there was absolutely no way the Red Stars could be anywhere but Chicago.

That conversation turned into a friendship that produced several talks centered around how the Longs could accomplish their goal of bringing an NWSL team back to Kansas City.

Fast forward to this week; their dream has become a reality. The NWSL announced that the majority female ownership group, led by the founders of Palmer Square Capital Management LLC, will take over all player’s rights, draft picks and other assets held by Utah Royals FC and begin play in 2021.

“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 in a statement. “We are committed to getting this right — for our team and our town.”

Kansas City was home to one of the NWSL’s eight founding clubs in 2012, but in 2017 the team was sold to Elam Baer. The team subsequently ceased operations after the league cited mismanagement and absentee ownership and reacquired the team.

The league then moved the players and their contracts to Utah after establishing a new expansion team in Salt Lake City.

After three years in Utah, the return to Kansas City was sparked by Utah Royals and Salt Lake City FC owner Dell Loy Hansen’s racist rant criticizing Real Salt Lake players who chose not to play a match in August following the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Reports began to emerge that Hansen’s racist language was common. Both the MLS and the NWSL announced an investigation into Hansen and within days announced he’d be selling his Utah soccer holdings.

“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 in a release.

This is the second female-led ownership group the NWSL has seen in the last year. Venture capitalist Kara Nortman, Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman and the club’s president, Julie Uhrman, led a group that includes Serena Williams and multiple former U.S. women’s national team players, including Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm in founding Angel City FC.

The Los Angeles-based team will begin play in 2022.

Among the Kansas City owners is former Division I and pro soccer player and fitness entrepreneur Brittany Matthews. Matthews, who is engaged to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, said she’s eager to see more championship trophies raised in Missouri.

“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,” Matthews said.

Whisler said the more the league’s ownership groups and front offices reflect the league’s fan base and the cities the NWSL plays in, the better.

For a long time Whisler has been vocal about his desire to add to the Red Stars capital base to compete for soccer’s best athletes globally. He said he’s had some success in attracting interest in adding to the team’s ownership group, though he declined to say who’s involved.

“We’ll have more to say on that in the new year,” Whisler said.