The return of the National Women’s Soccer League to Utah is reportedly getting closer to becoming a reality.
On Friday, The Wall Street Journal’s Jessica Toonkel and Rachel Bachman first reported that the NWSL “is in advanced discussions” to add a Utah franchise, as well as franchises in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston.
Sportico’s Eben Novy-Williams and Emily Caron later reported that the NWSL voted two weeks ago to approve the additions of the franchises.
No firm timetable for an official announcement was given, although Toonkel and Bachman reported that San Francisco and Utah are primed to play in 2024, “with Boston launching later.”
Toonkel and Bachman reported that ownership groups of the San Francisco and Boston franchises will both pay about $50 million for their teams, while David Blitzer and Ryan Smith — who own Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake — will only have to pay between $2 million and $5 million.
That is because when the Utah franchise, known as Utah Royals FC, was sold in 2020 to a group in Kansas City, there was an option that the club could be brought back with a fee in that financial neighborhood.
In just the last few years, however, NWSL franchise valuations have skyrocketed, as reflected in the fees for the other incoming teams (Boston will also be a revival like Utah, as the Boston Breakers were in existence from 2013 until folding just before the 2018 season, URFC’s first).
The $2 million-$5 million estimate is consistent with an ESPN story by Jeff Kassouf from last June. Kassouf reported that the original fee “was believed to have been in the $2 million range,” but was increased “to solve a potential stumbling block.”
The addition of three franchises would bring the league’s total to 15.
In three years of existence, URFC raised the bar for the NWSL in many areas as far as amenities for players and was one of the more successful franchises in the league from a business perspective, but those things were ultimately offset amid allegations of racism and sexism within the organization, which have grown in quantity in the time since the franchise was sold to the Kansas City group.
When Blitzer and Smith purchased RSL just over a year ago, they said they planned on exercising the option to bring back URFC, with Blitzer saying it would be a matter of “when, not if.”
The 2024 season has long been seen as the target for the franchise to return to the pitch, with Kassouf first reporting last June that such was in the works.