NWSL awards Kansas City club, will assume Utah Royals player rights

The National Women's Soccer League is returning to Kansas City after an ownership group led by local businesspeople was awarded an expansion franchise Monday.

League commissioner Lisa Baird also said the ownership group, which is led by the husband-wife team of Angie and Chris Long and their Kansas City-based Palmer Square Capital Management, will assume all of the player rights, draft picks and other necessary assets from Utah Royals FC as that club winds down its operations.

The Royals were part of Utah Soccer, the entity that also owns Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake. Dell Loy Hansen announced in September that he would sell the teams and its assets following MLS and NWSL investigations of sexism and harrassment at the organization. Utah would be able to establish a new NWSL franchise in 2023 once new owners are found.

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"This is a tremendous opportunity for our league,'' Baird said. "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.''

Included in the ownership group is Brittany Matthews, the fiancee of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Matthews played college soccer at the University of Texas-Tyler before a professional stint with UMF Afturelding in Iceland. Matthews, who is expecting the couple's first child in the new year, now lives in Kansas City and is a fitness entrepreneur.

"I have a true level of appreciation for what these incredible women do on a daily basis,'' Matthews said in a statement. "We have the greatest fans and community here in KC and I can't wait to huddle around this team.''

It's the second time the couple has invested in a pro sports franchise in Kansas City. Shortly after signing a deal that could pay him $500 million over the next decade, Mahomes purchased an ownership stake in MLB's Kansas City Royals.

The city's previous women's soccer team, FC Kansas City, won back-to-back NWSL championships in 2014 and '15 before it was sold to a Minnesota-based ownership group. After a year, the Blues announced they were folding and that their assets would be sent to the expansion franchise in Utah.

The new Kansas City club already has announced that former FC Kansas City general manager Huw Williams will be back as its head coach. He worked hand-in-hand with that club's former coach, Vlatko Andonovski, who is now the head coach of the U.S. women's national team -- which coincidentally has a sparkling new training facility in Kansas City.

"The league has been transformed by innovative leadership and explosive growth," Angie Long said. "We are committed to getting this right, for our team and our town. We can't wait for the players and the country to see what we've long known: There's something special about living in Kansas City and something even more special about playing here.''