NWSL awards expansion team rights to Utah
New York City, NY (March 11, 2023) — The National Women’s Soccer League, Smith Entertainment Group and Global Football Holdings today announced the return of Utah Royals FC to the state of Utah. The team will begin play in 2024.
“When we acquired Real Salt Lake last year, we said it was a matter of when, not if, the NWSL would return to Utah. This has always been an integral part of our mission. With today’s announcement, we are thrilled to fulfill the promise we made to our incredible fan base,” club owner David Blitzer said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to use our resources and platform to take women’s soccer to the next level while inspiring future players and fans globally.”
“We are excited to expand the ‘One Utah’ family and bring the Royals back to Utah,” club owner Ryan Smith said. “Having professional women’s soccer back in the state has always been a top priority for David Blitzer and myself, and is very meaningful to us, the fans, our partners, and the entire state.”
Utah Royals FC will be led by President Michelle Hyncik, who has served as Real Salt Lake’s General Counsel for the past three years. Before making the move to Utah, Hyncik spent five years working with Major League Soccer as Senior Legal Counsel. Prior to her career in professional sports, Hyncik worked at renowned law firm WilmerHale in New York City as a Senior Associate regulatory attorney. Hyncik received her B.A. from Harvard University, where she was a graduating member of the Harvard Women’s Soccer team, and then earned a J.D. from Columbia University Law School.
“As someone who credits my entire livelihood to my home on the pitch, I will prioritize empowering our Utah Royals players, and the young girls and boys who look up to them, through providing state of the art facilities, resources, staff, engagement, and opportunities to achieve their full potential,” Hyncik said. “I could not be prouder to be part of this community and the Utah Soccer family as we bring world-class women’s soccer to Utah in 2024.”
The name, Utah Royals FC, will remain intact and the team will be returning once again to compete at America First Credit Union Field, Utah’s premier soccer stadium, shared with Real Salt Lake.
“We are delighted to welcome Utah Royals FC and its dedicated fan base back into the league,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman. “The return of the women’s game to Utah, where soccer roots run deep, is a victory for players and fans alike. As the Royals begin this new chapter under the new ownership and leadership, I am confident the club will build a player-first organization equipped with the tools to thrive on and off the pitch.”
Additionally, the Club has announced America First Credit Union as the Utah Royals FC jersey front partner. America First Credit Union has long been a partner of Real Salt Lake, and recently became the naming rights partner for the Sandy-based venue of Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals, America First Field.
“America First Credit Union is invested in the wellbeing of our members, our employees, and the best interests of the communities we serve,” said Tammy Gallegos, the Chief Engagement Strategic Officer and EVP for AFCU. “As a founding partner of both Real Salt Lake and the first iteration of the Royals, we are proud to be tied to the passion the club and fans bring to such a broad community in Utah and the surrounding states. We couldn’t be more excited to see the Royals return to Utah to play at America First Credit Union Field and support the organization. Our shared values and desire to create impactful change in the community made this an ideal opportunity for AFCU while also being a natural extension of our partnership with RSL. Welcome home Utah Royals!”
The announcement marks a new era of women’s soccer in the State of Utah. The inaugural Royals team kicked off its tenure on March 28, 2018 in front of a sold-out, standing room only crowd of 19,203 in Sandy, Utah. During its three seasons, the Club attracted some of the world’s brightest soccer talents, including four FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions in Kelley O’Hara, Christen Press, Amy Rodriguez and Becky Sauerbrunn, as well as Spain’s leading scorer and UEFA Women’s Championship winner, Vero Boquete. The Utah Royals FC averaged the second-highest attendance in the league, exceeding 11,000 fans per game.
Joining the club for this new, exciting chapter are investors 42 Futbol Group, five business leaders, three of whom are women driving change in their respective industries. Critical to this group is Jessica Gelman, who will serve on the NWSL Board of Governors for the Utah Royals. Jessica is a pioneer in the sports industry and one of the most influential women in sports as CEO of the Kraft Analytics Group and co-founder of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
Collectively, Smith Entertainment Group and Global Football Holding’s soccer interest in Utah now includes USSF-sanctioned first division sides in both men’s and women’s soccer, including Real Salt Lake (MLS) and Utah Royals FC (NWSL), Real Monarchs (MLS NEXT Pro), who compete in the third division of American soccer, and the RSL Academy (MLS NEXT), widely regarded as one of the top academies in the United States.
The NWSL is on the eve of its 11th year. Originally founded with eight member clubs, the league has now expanded to 13 teams. Since its inception, the NWSL has experienced immense growth across several key aspects of the organization, including attendance, sponsorship and viewership.