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Report: Utah Royals FC franchise returning to Kansas City

Utah Royals FC forward Amy Rodriguez (8) misses a shot on goal as the Utah Royals host the Portland Thorns at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, April 28, 2018.
Utah Royals FC forward Amy Rodriguez (8) misses a shot on goal as the Utah Royals host the Portland Thorns at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, April 28, 2018.
Adam Fondren, Deseret News

Just over three years after being relocated from Kansas City, Utah Royals FC is reportedly returning there.

The Athletic’s Meg Linehan first reported late last month that an ownership group was looking to bring the franchise back to Kansas City, and The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf reported Saturday evening that URFC players were told of the plans to move it back earlier in the day, although the sale is not yet finalized.

Kassouf’s report comes as no news has been made public concerning potential local buyers for URFC or Real Salt Lake from departing owner Dell Loy Hansen, who announced in late August his intention to sell the franchises in the midst of controversy surrounding reports of racism and sexism within the organization.

When FC Kansas City floundered in 2017, Hansen bought the franchise, delivering on a goal he had to bring a National Women’s Soccer League team to Utah. The sale happened on short notice in November and there were just a few months to prepare for the 2018 season, but the club became known for the progressive way in which its players were treated, and it had a relatively solid fan base.

Success never came on the field, as URFC never made the playoffs, although Hansen again made positive headlines earlier this year when he agreed to finance the NWSL Challenge Cup, which became the first team sporting event in the United States in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Everything came crashing down in August, however. After RSL players followed athletes around the country in not playing on Aug. 26 in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Hansen publicly criticized their decision.

Just days later, Hansen announced he would sell both teams, but the turmoil was just beginning for URFC. RSL Soapbox reported that higher-ups in the organization had made sexist comments about URFC players, and then in September, head coach Craig Harrington was placed on leave of absence after just over seven months in charge because of an investigation into misconduct.

His contract was formally terminated in November, but the challenges were not over, as both of the team’s United States Women’s National Team players, Christen Press and Kelley O’Hara, wanted out.

Press was not protected in the NWSL expansion draft in November and was taken by Racing Louisville FC, and O’Hara was traded to the Washington Spirit earlier this week.

Sale of URFC does not necessarily have bearing on RSL’s future, although multiple outlets have reported that Major League Soccer will assume ownership of RSL if Hansen has not sold the franchise by Jan. 8.