Feb 1, 2023 - News

Pro women's soccer team may make a comeback in Utah

Illustration of a soccer ball being kicked along an upward trend line.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Utah may welcome back a professional women's soccer team by 2024.

What's happening: The National Women's Soccer League is in the thick of "advanced discussions" to expand teams in Utah, the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Catch up quick: The state's former pro women's soccer club, the Utah Royals FC, was sold in 2020. It moved to Kansas City, Kansas, after then-owner Dell Loy Hansen faced allegations of using racist language and sexism.

Between the lines: That deal allowed the new owners to return the team to Utah in 2023. The team's anticipated return to Utah has been described as "an open secret within the NWSL," per ESPN.

Context: For years, Utah leaders and franchise owners have talked about welcoming another professional sports team to the Beehive State.

  • Last year, Smith Entertainment Group, the parent company of Real Salt Lake, the Utah Jazz and Vivint Arena, announced a deal with Arctos Sports Partners in the hopes of bringing another sports franchise to the state.
  • Real Salt Lake owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith have said they intend to bring the Utah Royals back, per Deseret News.

The big picture: The popularity of women's professional soccer has grown significantly in recent years as the NWSL expands.

By the numbers: The Utah owners would pay between $2 million and $5 million for the team as part of an agreement reached years ago, per The Athletic.

What they're saying: "When we have news to share, we will do so," a league spokesperson told Axios.

  • A spokesperson for Real Salt Lake declined to comment.

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