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Utah Royals set to return to NWSL for 2024 season

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Utah Royals are returning to the NWSL in 2024, with the league set to make the official announcement Saturday, Sportico reported.

The Royals will bring with them several new investors, among them Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey, Kraft Analytics Group CEO Jessia Gelman and Netflix vice president Amy Reinhard. They are part of a five-investor group that has bought a stake in the parent organization for the Royals and for MLS club Real Salt Lake.

Two teams are set to join the league for the 2024 season, as previously reported: The reincarnation of the Utah franchise and a new franchise in the San Francisco Bay Area. The NWSL also will add a Boston franchise at a later date.

Real Salt Lake owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith spearheaded the effort to revive the Royals, which folded in 2020. Blitzer will serve as the principal owner, while Gelman will serve as the Royals’ alternate governor.

“This is the right opportunity, with the right overarching ownership group, which has the same vision as us: to empower women, affect change and to do it right,” Gelman told Sportico. “Alignment of values is so important.”

The group plans to partner with the local YWCA, as well as to support STEM education opportunities for young women in the community.

“I think we are the best women’s soccer league in the world, and attention to those details matters,” Gelman said. “And the investments that we’re making into the Utah community are going to be very significant and powerful.

The formal announcement of the team’s return is expected Saturday, ahead of Real Salt Lake’s MLS hope opener. Real Salt Lake general counsel Michelle Hyncik is set to serve as the Royals’ team president, and she already has seen excitement brewing in the fan base.

When Blitzer and Smith held an introductory press conference with season ticket holders for the MLS club, questions about the revival of the Royals were prevalent.

“The chat was running on the side of the screen, so you could read what fans were writing in real time,” Hyncik said of the discussion. “David and Ryan were both floored. It was a milestone moment for our ownership group to be able to visually and viscerally see how important it was to our community.”