On Saturday, rumors began to circulate that the Utah Royals would be sold to an ownership group in Kansas City. That would bring the NWSL back to KC for the first time since FC Kansas City were technically dissolved after the 2017 NWSL season (but basically they moved to Utah). The rumor is now that the announcement will be made official Monday morning.
According to multiple sources, expect the official announcement from the #NWSL of the Utah and Kansas City news tomorrow. (Believe the plan is early in the day.)— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) December 7, 2020
While we don’t yet know what the team will be called, we have a pretty good idea of who will be on the roster, based on the 2020 Utah Royals roster. First, let’s start with who won’t be on the roster.
Three USWNT Players Recently Departed Utah
After the appalling comments made by Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen, an exodus began in Utah for United States Women’s National Team players.
The first exit actually came long before the controversy. Regular USWNT starter and former star and captain of FCKC, Becky Sauerbrunn, was traded back in March to the Portland Thorns. In exchange for Sauerbrunn, Utah acquired Elizabeth Ball and $100,000 in allocation money (yes, NWSL has it too).
Ball is a 25-year-old defender who went to Penn State University. She was undrafted in the 2019 NWSL College Draft. The move was largely about Sauerbrunn wanting to return home after a long career playing in other parts of the country. That partially explains why it’s such an unbalanced trade.
The next exit seemed to be directly tied to the DLH controversy. Christian Press is currently plying her trade in England for Manchester United. According to the Royals, she indicated she would no longer play in Utah. Because of that she was unprotected in the Expansion Draft for new club Racing Louisville, who took flyers on her and Tobin Heath (who is also with Manchester United). Heath and Press were their final two picks.
The last USWNT player to leave happened just days ago as Kelley O’Hara was traded to the Washington Spirit for $75,000 in allocation money and a conditional 2022 first round draft pick (based on O’Hara’s playing time in 2021). O’Hara hadn’t played much since joining the Royals due to a combination of injuries and USWNT duty. Don’t let her playing right back for the National Team fool you. O’Hara is an attacking player who scored 57 times for Stanford in college and has added 19 goals in the NWSL.
So Utah received $100,000 for Sauerbrunn (with an additional $50,000 due when she’s allocated to the US again in 2021), $75,000 for losing Press in the draft and $75,000 for the O’Hara trade. That’s an additional $300,000 on top of the remaining $245,000 (from their original $300,000) for the 2021 season. The other $55,000 was spent to acquire Michele Vasconcelos (a Sandy, Utah native). Vasconcelos is a 26-year-old forward acquired in a trade from the Chicago Red Stars. All that allocation money should go a long way towards acquiring stars or even vital roleplayers.
Remaining Rostered Utah Royals Players
So enough on who is gone, who is still around? First, there are some former FC Kansas City stars on the roster. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart and striker Amy Rodriguez are still on the Royals and will be familiar to FCKC fans as they were a part of the title teams in 2014 and 2015. Other names you probably recognize are Desiree Scott, Brittany Ratcliffe, Katie Bowen and Lo’eau LaBonta.
There are no indications at this point (with the official announcement not made at this time) if any or all the players will come along as a part of this deal. The NWSL has come a long way on player pay but most players are still paid fairly poorly and some may simply choose to retire versus moving again.
Here is the remainder of the Utah Royals roster as of this writing in alphabetical order by last name.
Current Utah Royals Roster
|Kate Del Fava||FWD|
The Blue Testament will bring you lots more coverage on the forthcoming Kansas City NWSL team and we’ll be looking for new contributors that want to specialize in NWSL coverage (as well as contribute in coverage of the other KC area teams). Reach out to me on Twitter (@PlayFor90), comment below or contact another member of the TBT staff.