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Utah Royals start building expansion roster with Orlando’s Mikayla Cluff

Mikayla Cluff celebrates after scoring a goal for the Orlando Pride against the Chicago Red Stars during the 2023 NWSL season. (Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports)

The Utah Royals have their first player, acquiring Mikayla Cluff via trade from the Orlando Pride.

The 24-year-old midfielder is a native of Kaysville, Utah, and played for BYU in college, scoring 53 goals through 93 appearances and finishing as a finalist for the Hermann Trophy in 2021. She already is in her home state preparing for the 2024 NWSL season, which will mark the Royals’ return to the league as an expansion team.

“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,” Cluff said in a news release.

In the trade, the Royals received Cluff, who is under contract through the 2025 season, as well as the No. 26 pick in the 2024 college draft. The Pride received expansion draft protection and $90,000 in allocation money.

Bay FC and the Utah Royals will have the opportunity to select up to 12 players through the 12-round expansion draft, but the Pride already have acquired protection from both expansion teams.

The original Royals franchise played in the NWSL from 2018 through 2020. At the end of the 2020 season, the team folded, and their players were transferred to the Kansas City Current. Real Salt Lake owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith are reestablishing the franchise.

Cluff played for the Utah Royals FC Reserves in 2019, making 12 appearances and scoring eight goals in the amateur team’s inaugural WPSL season. In her time with the Pride, Cluff had four goals through 40 appearances.

“We’re so excited to welcome Mikayla back to Utah,” Royals head coach Amy Rodriguez said in a news release. “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.”