Real Salt Lake owners announced on March 11 that the National Women’s Soccer League will be returning to Utah in 2024.
When co-owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith acquired Real Salt Lake in January of last year, Blitzer said he and Smith had already decided to bring the Royals back to Utah, it was just a matter of when.
A little over a year later and the co-owners are staying true to their word.
“This has always been an integral part of our mission. With today’s announcement, we are thrilled to fulfill the promise we made to our incredible fan base,” Blitzer said in a statement published on the Utah Royals website. “We are grateful for the opportunity to use our resources and platform to take women’s soccer to the next level while inspiring future players and fans globally.”
Smith also emphasized his excitement in welcoming the Royals back to the Utah soccer community.
“Having professional women’s soccer back in the state has always been a top priority for David Blitzer and myself, and is very meaningful to us, the fans, our partners, and the entire state,” Smith said.
The return of professional women’s soccer to the beehive state is especially important to collegiate athletes such as Laveni Vaka, a member of the BYU women’s soccer team, and others like her who aspire to join a professional soccer league following their college careers.
“Utah Royals returning next year is huge,” Vaka said. “It’s a special opportunity for local college players to be able to play professionally here in Utah. I know when I plan on going pro in 2024, the Utah Royals is where I want to be… Utah is home to my family and myself.”
The returning Royalty will be led by new president Michelle Hyncik, the former vice president of legal and general counsel for Real Salt Lake. Prior to joining Real Salt Lake, Hyncik played on Harvard’s women’s soccer team and graduated from Columbia Law School. After practicing corporate law in New York City for several years, Hyncik made the transition to Major League Soccer, a jump that helped pave the way for her appointment as the president of the Utah Royals.
In a statement published on Real Salt Lake’s website in 2022, Hyncik said her job with MLS allowed her to experience various states around the country. She grew particularly fond of Utah and felt like it was a place where she wanted to plant roots and raise her family.
As Hyncik and the Royals team prepare to take the field again next year, Hyncik is dedicated to empowering the Utah Royals players and inspiring the Utah community.
“As someone who credits my entire livelihood to my home on the pitch, I will prioritize empowering our Utah Royals players and the young girls and boys who look up to them, through providing state-of-the-art facilities, resources, staff, engagement and opportunities to achieve their full potential. I could not be prouder to be part of this community and the Utah Soccer family as we bring world-class women’s soccer to Utah in 2024,” Hyncik said in a recent statement.
Although the team chose to retain its previous name, the Royals did undergo a rebranding effort that resulted in both a new club symbol and a new dedication to being a “Club that was made by women, for women,” as stated on the Utah Royal’s website.
“We’re building a women’s football club run by women that empowers women. We want that to be kind of the long-lasting embodiment of what people think of when they hear the words Utah Royals,” Tyler Gibbons, RSL Vice President of Marketing & Game Production, said.
The new club symbol features a lioness wearing a crown, with the Utah mountains making their appearance at the base of the crown.
The Royals first graced America First Credit Union Field in March 2018, with game attendance so high that they averaged the second-highest attendance in the league and exceeded 11,000 fans per game. Their re-entrance to the professional soccer community will come after a four-year hiatus as the team disbanded in 2020, sending their assets to Kansas City.
Upon the Royals’ announcement of their return, other members of the National Women’s Soccer League took to Twitter to congratulate their soon-to-be rival.
The National Women’s Soccer League is currently composed of 12 Division-1 professional women’s soccer teams and features national team players from around the world, according to the NWSL website.
The NWSL replaced the Women’s Professional Soccer organization in 2012 and is the premier professional women’s soccer league in the United States.