The National Women’s Soccer League announced on Monday that the FC Kansas City franchise has been sold back to the league and the club dissolved. The new team announced last week under the auspices of MLS club Real Salt Lake will be a new, non-expansion side. All player contracts, draft picks and international roster spots have been transferred by NWSL to the as yet unnamed Salt Lake club. The transactions were separate meaning that FC Kansas City was not sold directly to Dell Loy Hansen’s ownership group in Salt Lake.
As part of the agreement, The Salt Lake club will have the 1st overall pick in 2019 as their natural 1st round pick. The Washington Spirit hold the top pick in the 2018 draft and were presumably unwilling to drop in the order. Andi Sullivan is widely considered to be the top pick in 2018. The Spirit were in a similar position in 2014 when the Houston Dash were a late add as an expansion club after the Spirit finished last in 2013. That year the Spirit selected Crystal Dunn. The Dash were slotted in second and picked Kealia Ohai.
“First, we’d like to recognize and thank Elam Baer and FC Kansas City LLC for their efforts this past year. We appreciate his commitment in helping the NWSL move forward,” NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy said. “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. Most importantly, we would like to acknowledge and sincerely thank all the fans and the city of Kansas City for their support of this club, the league and the sport over the past five years.”
FC Kansas City hosted the first NWSL match on April 13, 2013, a 1-1 draw against the Portland Thorns. Those sides would develop an early rivalry, meeting in semifinals during the first two seasons with each side winning once and then the NWSL Championship. But the top rival for the club affectionately known as the Blues was Seattle Reign FC. FC Kansas City defeated the Reign to win NWSL Championships in 2014 and 2015 despite the Reign winning the Shield both seasons. In the final meeting between FC Kansas City and Seattle, the Blues prevailed in the penultimate match of 2017 to knock the Reign out of playoff contention.
In five years on the field, FC Kansas City amassed a record of 47-36-27 during the regular season and were 4-1-0 in playoff matches. The club will be remembered for the attractive style installed by then-unknown coach Vlatko Andonovski. The Macedonian-born coach, who recently took the same position with the Reign, used his indoor soccer background to help his team excel at the short passing game that focused on playing out of the back and switching the point of attack. With Lauren Holiday pulling the strings, FC Kansas City helped raise the standard of women’s soccer during the first three seasons of NWSL.
Holiday was named league MVP in 2013 as part of a clean sweep of awards for the Blues. Andonovski was named Coach of the Year, Becky Sauerbrunn was named best defender, Nicole Barnhart won for goalkeeper, and Erika Tymrak was Rookie of the Year. From that group only Holiday, who retired at the end of 2015, was not part of the club in 2017.
“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,” said Elam Baer, former owner of FC Kansas City. “I will always be a fan of the game, the league, our players and, above all, our fans. I wish the NWSL a bright future and our former FC Kansas City players continued success in their careers on and off the field. I am sure the players will add another championship to the two they already brought to Kansas City.”
Baer purchased FC Kansas City earlier in 2017 from a group led by the Likens brothers. The Likens’ ownership became untenable following allegations they have sent lewd emails about players around the league including some who played in Kansas City.