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The return of the NWSL in Utah: Game 1 vs. Chicago Red Stars

It’s a new era in Utah with a new team as the Royals return, led by a head coach that once put on the Royals uniform. A sold out crowd of nearly 21,000 is expected, setting a new attendance record for women’s soccer in the state of Utah.

The return of the NWSL in Utah: Game 1 vs. Chicago Red Stars
Photo: Lucas Muller | Wasatch Soccer Sentinel

Three years. Three months. 10 days. That’s how long it’s been since the Utah Royals FC we knew ceased operations and transferred all player rights, draft picks, and certain other assets to the new Kansas City ownership group. The irony of it all since it was Utah, who in 2017, did the same with the former KC NWSL club. But here we were on that fateful day in 2020, and if you know of the history of why it had to be this way, then you know. If you don’t, well, time to do some research.

The transaction guaranteed one thing, however, that a new ownership group could re-establish the Utah Royals FC name and franchise in 2023. And that’s exactly what happened as Utah regained its NWSL club, announced on March 11, 2023. Soon after, Amy Rodriguez, once a player of the Utah team, was announced as the head coach.

We’ve come full circle, and the Royals, as soon as we entered the offseason after the 2023 season, began rebuilding and preparing to enter the 2024 NWSL season, set for a home opener against the Chicago Red Stars on March 16 at 5:30pm MT.

There's nostalgia with this team and a hope that they could create the same amount of hype that they did for that inaugural season in 2018, and it’s okay if you long for those days. It’s perfectly fine to have to familiarize yourself with the new roster, one that is full of young talent. The NWSL, once dominated by the big names of the US Women’s National Team that won the 2015 and 2019 World Cup, feels like a younger league, with players like Naomi Girma, Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, all who are now regulars with the national team.

But it’s a new era in Utah with a new team, led by a head coach that once put on the Royals uniform. A sold out crowd of nearly 21,000 is expected, setting a new attendance record for women’s soccer in the state of Utah, surpassing the 19,584 record set in June 2003 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Match Details:

Utah Royals FC vs. Chicago Red Stars

America First Field | 5:30pm MT

WATCH on ION TV with JP Dellacamera & Jill Loyden (ch. 16 over-the-air in Utah / ch. 648 / 1016 Xfinity)

What We’re Watching:

Basically, everything. We do not know much about this team, but we are curious about the starting XI, formation, ARod as head coach, the actual number of the sellout crowd, tactics, game plan, how the young roster deals under pressure, and how new team captain Paige Monaghan leads her team.

Score Prediction:

Utah Royals, 2-0. A sold out stadium. A young and talented team. A head coach that can easily encourage her team to a win, and this can easily be Utah's win. She could become the first former NWSL player to win her first match as a head coach. That is, if Racing Louisville FC’s new coach Bev Yanez, a two-time NWSL Shield winner, does not get her first win vs. the Orlando Pride earlier in the day.

Injury Report:

OUT: Zoe Burns (hip), Mandy Haught (suspension)

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