KANSAS CITY, Mo. – One of the most successful teams in the National Women’s Soccer League no longer exists.
The league announced Monday it had reacquired the membership interest to two-time champion FC Kansas City, effectively folding one of its inaugural clubs after five seasons. The club had been in financial trouble and its future in limbo for the last several months.
“As the league moves on, and as difficult as it is to share this news about FC Kansas City, we feel it is in the best interest of the league and the players at this time,” said Amanda Duffy, the league’s managing director of operations, in a statement announcing the decision.
It came days after the NWSL announced it was beginning a team in Salt Lake City.
The corresponding moves are not simply relocating a franchise, though, so the titles won by FCKC in 2014 and 2015 will not transfer to Salt Lake City. But because the league manages the contracts of all the players, the rights of any FCKC players will be assigned to the new team.
That club is owned by Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer, and it will begin playing its games at Rio Tinto Stadium beginning with the 2018 season.
FCKC folded less than a year after Minnesota businessman Elam Baer purchased the team. And while there was a push by some Kansas City soccer fans for the ownership group of MLS club Sporting Kansas City to acquire the franchise, it became clear in recent weeks that it wasn’t going to happen.
“This is the best and necessary decision for the future of the league and the players who have impressively represented NWSL and Kansas City over the past five years,” Baer said. “I wish the NWSL a bright future and our former FC Kansas City players continued success in their careers.”
There is certainly some star power that appears headed for Salt Lake, including U.S. national team members Becky Sauerbrunn, Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez and Canadian star Desiree Scott.
Sauerbrunn was voted to the league’s Best XI for the fifth time this season, the only player to make it every year of the league’s existence. Leroux led the club with six goals in 23 appearances.
“We are sympathetic to the range of emotions experienced in recent days by this group of talented players,” Real Salt Lake GM Craig Waibel said. “However, we know they will be excited about enhancing the soccer culture we are building for them here in Utah.”
The Salt Lake club will also receive Kansas City’s picks in the 2018 college draft, its spots in the discovery, waiver tie-breaker and distribution ranking order. It will also have the top pick in the 2019 college draft, regardless of how the club performs in its first season.
“As we evaluate this roster,” Waibel said, “and in the midst of looking to hire a head coach, players know that they are the sole focus of our aspirations as we modify our world-class facilities to their needs, expand our club and deepen our roots in the community.”
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review's sports newsletter
Get the day's top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.