Former BYU Cougar Mikayla Cluff will return to Utah as the first player signed by Utah Royals FC, the club announced Wednesday.

Cluff has spent the past two seasons with Orlando after being drafted No. 14 overall in 2021. She has recorded four goals and one assist in her 51 appearances with the club.

“While I’ve enjoyed my time in Orlando over the last two seasons, I’m extremely excited to return to play in my hometown and bring back this club for the state and for the fans,” she said in a press release. “I’m very thankful for my time with the Pride, and I wish them luck, but now I’m focused on working with the legend (Royals FC head coach) Amy Rodriguez to bring a championship to Utah.”  

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She told reporters Wednesday that her time in Orlando has made her a more-rounded player, because she’s learned to play more of a defensive midfielder role instead of the attacking role she was known for at BYU.

“I’m always open to playing whatever role is needed,” she said. “I think I just shaped my game to be more of an overall midfielder. You always have your sixes, or your 10s or your eights, but I think I’m capable of being productive in each one of those roles.”

Who is Mikayla Cluff?

During her time at BYU, Cluff:

  • Started all but two games.
  • Won West Coast Conference Player of the Year three times.
  • Helped take the Cougars to the 2021 NCAA Championship final.
  • Won the 2021 WCC Offensive Player of the Year.
  • Was a 2021 Hermann Trophy finalist.

In exchange for Cluff, Utah traded $90,000 in allocation money, the No. 26 pick in the NWSL draft and expansion draft protection to the Orlando Pride.

The Royals have signed Cluff through the 2025 season.

“We’re so excited to welcome Mikayla back to Utah,” Rodriguez said. “A player who has had so much success in the state at both the collegiate and high school level and has now shown to be an excellent NWSL player. She offers versatility in the midfield, which is so valuable in an expansion year. When evaluating players, we also put a big emphasis on their character and Mikayla is a great first step in building the culture we want in our locker room. We know how much she is loved in this state, and we can’t wait for our fans to cheer her on in Utah again.” 

Cluff, who grew up in Kaysville, Utah, played soccer at Davis High School and was Deseret News’ 2016 Ms. Soccer after scoring 28 goals in 20 games that season.

She said Wednesday that she enjoyed telling her family the news of her signing and is looking forward to playing in front of them every home game.

“They were pretty excited,” she said. “I think everybody hoped that it would be a possibility for me and I kept everything a little hush-hush even when I had those initial conversations, and so it was fun to tell them and see their excited reactions.”