The Utah Royals are coming back to the NWSL in 2024.
The previously established team returns with a new set of investors, including Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey, Kraft Analytics Group CEO Jessica Gelman and Netflix vice-president Amy Reinhard. They are a part of a five-investor group that bought a stake in the parent organization for the Royals and MLS club Real Salt Lake.
Real Salt Lake owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith initiated the effort to revive the Royals, which ceased operations in 2020. Blitzer will now serve as the principal owner, while Gelman stands as the Royals’ alternate governor. Real Salt Lake general counsel Michelle Hyncik is set to serve as the team president.
“This is the right opportunity, with the right overarching ownership group, which has the same vision as us: to empower women, affect change and to do it right,” Gelman told Sportico. “Alignment of values is so important.”
The formal announcement of the team’s return is expected Saturday, ahead of Real Salt Lake’s MLS home opener. Blitzer and Smith teased the team’s revival during an introductory press conference with Real Salt Lake season ticket holders, receiving several promising reactions over the return.
“The chat was running on the side of the screen, so you could read what fans were writing in real time,” Hyncik said of the discussion. “David and Ryan were both floored. It was a milestone moment for our ownership group to be able to visually and viscerally see how important it was to our community.”
To propel a connection with the community, the group plans to partner with the local YWCA and support STEM education opportunities for young women in Utah.
“I think we are the best women’s soccer league in the world, and attention to those details matters. And the investments that we’re making into the Utah community are going to be very significant and powerful,” concluded Gelman.
The rebranded team, alongside a new franchise in the San Francisco Bay Area, will join the league in 2024 as part of the expansion efforts. The American league is set to add an additional Boston franchise at a later date.
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