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Top WoSo Moments of 2017: The times they are a-changin’ to set the stage for a new NWSL landscape

While all the soccer has long-since concluded for the 2017 NWSL season, a late-calender story brewing from two-time champion FC Kansas City finally boiled over in November to affect a change in landscape that will be felt in the league for seasons to come.

FCKC had been dealing with behind-the-scenes issues throughout the year, starting with a story about their current owners allegedly sending derogatory emails about women soccer players that forced an ownership change before the 2017 season. That buyer, Minnesota-based Elam Baer, never really connected with the Kansas City fan-base, and attendance for FCKC home games started to plummet well before the end of the summer. When it was announced at the beginning of November that beloved FCKC head coach Vlatko Andonovski would not be returning to the Blues, and would be taking up the head job at the Seattle Reign (filling a role left by equally-beloved Laura Harvey, who left to pursue fresh opportunities), it looked like FC Kansas City was digging itself into a hole that it would struggle to climb out of again.

This is, it seems, where the league stepped in. After an attempt to move the team under the stewardship of local MLS squad Sporting Kansas City, the NWSL ultimately folded FCKC entirely and transferred their assets to a brand new team in Salt Lake City, partnering with their MLS counterpart Real Salt Lake. This marked the quick and unceremonious end of a valued part of NWSL history, and the rushed announcement of the new squad’s existence before confirming the fate of FC Kansas City (or even having a name for the team) left some fans with more shaken faith in the league’s priorities.

{MORE:  See our 2017 WoSo Moments so far}

However, it also probably saved the league from having to drop a team outright, and the birth of the Utah Royals could give the NWSL a sense of an ambitious way forward. There are differences in opinion as to whether partnership with MLS is going to be the key to the league’s growth, and how to balance that growth with respect for the people who have been following the NWSL since its inception. This intrigue is also sure to translate onto the pitch in 2018, as not more than a week after the team was introduced, the Royals announced that their first head coach would be, you guessed it, Laura Harvey.

Less clear is the fate of the Boston Breakers, another currently-independent team looking for a stable future. The Breakers are comfortably on the market, with an interested buyer, but there are also some undefined issues with the sale. This seems to be the final piece of the league’s unfinished business entering 2018, and a clean sale (that would hopefully keep the team in the Boston market) could mark a monumental shift forward in guaranteeing the stability of the league. Fans will be eager to make sure it doesn’t come at the cost of the league’s history.

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