NWSL announces Kansas City expansion team to start in 2021

NWSL announces Kansas City expansion team to start in 2021

FC Kansas City players celebrated two league championships before the team folded and was reassigned to Utah. But pro women’s soccer will return to KC in 2021.

FC Kansas City players celebrated two league championships before the team folded and was reassigned to Utah. But pro women’s soccer will return to KC in 2021.

The Associated Press

Professional women’s soccer will return to Kansas City next year under new ownership.

The National Women’s Soccer League announced Monday that it has granted an expansion franchise to a Kansas City ownership group led by Angie and Chris Long of Palmer Square Capital Management. The group also includes Brittany Matthews, a former Division I and pro soccer player and fitness entrepreneur who’s engaged to Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes.

Chris Long is the founder, CEO and chairman of Palmer Square, which says it manages more than $12 billion in assets. Angie Long, his wife, is the company’s chief investment officer.

“Chris and I could not be more ecstatic to welcome a team back to Kansas City, especially as the league has been transformed by innovative leadership and explosive growth. We are committed to getting this right — for our team and our town,” Angie Long said in a release. “We can’t wait for the players and the country to see what we have long known: there’s something special about living in Kansas City and something even more special about playing here.”

Kansas City had one of the league’s original eight franchises, FC Kansas City, in 2013, and the team played in different locations throughout its five-year stay, during which it won two NWSL championships. But after a change in ownership, the organization folded following the 2017 season, and the team’s players were allocated to Utah. In its last season, FCKC finished last in league attendance at 1,788 while playing at Swope Soccer Village. In its first season, playing at Shawnee Mission North High School, FCKC averaged 4,626 fans per game.

The Longs were not part of the FCKC ownership.

The league said all player rights, draft picks, and certain other assets formerly held by Utah Royals FC will be transferred to the new team in Kansas City. The move comes after Utah owner Dell Loy Hansen threatened to stop funding his Major League Soccer team, Real Salt Lake, after players publicized support for Black Lives Matter.

The league said the Longs’ ownership group is comprised mostly of women. New team president Jen Gulvik, a marketing and creative executive who has worked for NBKC Bank and Houlihan’s Restaurants, is among the owners, as well as Matthews, who played college soccer at the University of Texas at Tyler and professionally in Iceland.

“I have a true level of appreciation for what these incredible women do on a daily basis. I am honored to be part of an amazing ownership group that is passionate about the game and eager to welcome a NWSL team back to Kansas City,” Matthews said in a release. “We have the greatest fans and community here in KC and I can’t wait to huddle around this team — we want more championship parades in the very near future!”

The Longs also announced the team’s coach will be Huw Williams, the former FCKC general manager who was with that franchise during its NWSL championships in 2014 and 2015.

FCKC’s former head coach, Vlatko Andonovski, is now the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team.

“I’m thrilled and humbled to have earned the trust of the Long family and their ownership group, and look forward to representing our city and our players in the NWSL. I’ve long admired Angie and Chris not only professionally, but as friends. They bring a drive to succeed and a commitment to providing all the tools we need to deliver for our players and their fans,” Williams said. “I’m excited to work with all the players, and to reconnect with those I already know. In a league full of talent, it’s no surprise this roster is stacked with incredible athletes. I can’t wait to get started.”

The Kansas City expansion franchise will begin play in the 2021 season. The team’s name, branding, and training and competition venues are to be announced.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our league, and I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Kansas City back to the NWSL,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a release. “Kansas City is a soccer-rich community, and this fantastic ownership group is ready and able to commit the resources necessary for this club to be a massive success. I’d also like to thank the fans in Utah for their incredible support of the NWSL.”

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