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A look at the Utah Royals FC roster built so far

Utah Royals have acquired 12 players through trades leading up to the 2024 NWSL Expansion Draft on Friday, building a younger roster and with players with Utah connections.

A look at the Utah Royals FC roster built so far

Utah Royals FC is officially back in the NWSL, since this past March, obviously, but it feels truly official now as the team has spent the offseason building a roster and preparing for the Expansion Draft set for this Friday.

Heading into Friday, the Royals have acquired 12 players, making trades with the Orlando Pride, San Diego Wave FC, North Carolina Courage, Washington Spirit, NY/NY Gotham FC, the Kansas City Current, Portland Thorns FC, Angel City FC, and the Houston Dash. Those clubs are now protected from Utah on Friday. The Royals will be able to select players from the Chicago Red Stars, OL Reign, and Racing Louisville. The Expansion Draft is scheduled for Friday, December 15 at 5pm MT, with the Royals selecting after Bay FC’s first pick and choosing up to 12 additional players.

The Royals have managed to trade for players for each position, and basically have a starting eleven. Here’s the roster heading into the draft, and where each player was acquired from:

Goalkeepers: Mandy Haught (Gotham FC), Carly Nelson (Orlando Pride)

Defenders: Kaleigh Riehl (San Diego Wave), Madison Pogarch (San Diego Wave), Kate Del Fava (KC Current)

Midfielders: Mikayla Cluff (Orlando Pride), Michele Vasconcelos (Portland Thorns), Emily Gray (North Carolina Courage), Frankie Tagliaferri (North Carolina Courage)

Forwards: Hannah Betford (Portland Thorns), Imani Dorsey (Gotham FC), Cameron Tucker (Houston Dash)

Of notice is how the Royals opted to trade for players with Utah connections: Mikayla Cluff (BYU/Kaysville, Utah), Michele Vasconcelos (BYU/Sandy, Utah), Kate Del Fava (12th overall pick for Utah, 2020 college draft), Carly Nelson (University of Utah/Lindon, Utah), and Cameron Tucker (BYU/Higland, Utah). Along the way, Utah gained the 4th, 20th, 21st, 26th, and 33rd overall picks in the 2024 college draft on January 12, and one international spot along with 150K in allocation money, while spending 245K in allocation money (90K to Orlando, 60K to San Diego, 30K to North Carolina, 150K to Gotham FC, and 75K to Kansas City).

Alright, if you’re still with me, heading into the Expansion Draft, the Royals are in a good spot, with a young and talented roster. Dorsey and Haught are joining Utah with a recent NWSL championship, winning the 2023 title with Gotha FC, and Del Fava was a regular starter in Kansas City the last two seasons. Head coach Amy Rodriguez and the front office have focused on bringing younger players, which is preparation for upcoming seasons, especially if 2024 may be more of a learning year. But it could also be a good year, depending on how Rodriguez adapts to the NWSL as a head coach with her game tactics.

When Utah was last in the NWSL (2018-2020), much of the big hype signing focus was on those big names, think Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press. But the NWSL has come a long way since then, developing younger players, like Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Emily Fox, Alyssa Thompson, Naomi Girma, all who have broken into the U.S. Women’s National Team system.

Utah will still need to add a few veteran players, those who bring experience and leadership, either through the draft on Friday, with players from the Red Stars, Reign, or Racing Louisville, or via Free Agency. While much of the focus can be on developing young players, there also has to be balance of youth and experience in an NWSL club, especially as the league has become more competitive since 2020.

We shall see.

P.S. It's good to have Utah Royals back in the NWSL.

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