Professional Women’s soccer has returned to Kansas City. The National Women’s Soccer League announced that their board of governors approved an expansion team in Kansas City to begin play in 2021 with an ownership group led by wife and husband team Angie and Chris Long.
The NWSL in Kansas City turns full circle as the Utah Royals have ceased operations as all player rights, draft picks, and certain other assets formerly held by Utah Royals FC will be transferred to the team in Kansas City. This mirrors what happened after the 2017 season when FC Kansas City ceased operations and the assets moved to the expansion Utah Royals.
The Longs are local to Kansas City and are very successful in the financial sector. Angie serves as chief investment officer and Chris as CEO of Kansas City-based Palmer Square Capital Management.
“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. We are committed to getting this right – for our team and our town,” said Angie Long via press release. “We can’t wait for the players and the country to see what we have long known: there’s something special about living in Kansas City and something even more special about playing here.”
The ownership group is comprised mostly of female industry leaders. In addition to the Longs, the group consists of marketing and creative executive Jen Gulvik, who is the first president of the new Kansas City team. Rounding out the group is former professional soccer player and fitness entrepreneur, Brittany Matthews.
“As a former collegiate and professional soccer player, I have a true level of appreciation for what these incredible women do on a daily basis. I am honored to be part of an amazing ownership group that is passionate about the game and eager to welcome a NWSL team back to Kansas City,” said Matthews vis press release. “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!”
The NWSL looks to continue their rise after a difficult but successful 2020 season. From a streaming deal that saw exponential growth in viewership, through new sponsorships and expansion teams lining up to play in the league, the league is poised to break out.
NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird took over in early 2020 and oversaw much those successes while overcoming the challenges of sports in a COVID world.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our league, and I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Kansas City back to the NWSL,” said Lisa Baird. “Kansas City is a soccer-rich community, and this fantastic ownership group is ready and able to commit the resources necessary for this club to be a massive success. I’d also like to thank the fans in Utah for their incredible support of the NWSL.”
The first head coach
The Longs have named former FC Kansas City General Manager Huw Williams as head coach of the new NWSL Kansas City club. Williams was General Manager and assistant coach when FC Kansas City became the first “two-star” team in the NWSL by winning back -to-back NWSL championships in 2014 and 2015. Williams was partner with Vlatko Andonovski who is now the USWNT head coach.
Williams not only has the previous NWSL experience, he has close ties with US Youth Soccer and college programs across the nation. He also leads a very successful youth club in Kansas City and many of his former players have been standouts in college and the professional ranks. His experience and knowledge will be key in turning an underperforming roster into a succes.
“We have had the privilege of seeing firsthand how Huw builds a winning culture, inspiring teams with not only his work ethic and technical expertise, but with his intense love of the game and commitment to excellence,” said Chris Long. “He is already hard at work and will be a great leader for the club.”
“I’m thrilled and humbled to have earned the trust of the Long family and their ownership group, and look forward to representing our city and our players in the NWSL. I’ve long admired Angie and Chris not only professionally, but as friends. They bring a drive to succeed and a commitment to providing all the tools we need to deliver for our players and their fans,” said Coach Williams. “I’m excited to work with all the players, and to reconnect with those I already know. In a league full of talent, it’s no surprise this roster is stacked with incredible athletes. I can’t wait to get started.”