FC Kansas City

Kansas City’s women’s soccer team FCKC not expected to return in 2018

FC Kansas City players have celebrated two league championships, including this one in 2014, but the franchise is expected either to fold or move to Salt Lake City, according to a source.
FC Kansas City players have celebrated two league championships, including this one in 2014, but the franchise is expected either to fold or move to Salt Lake City, according to a source. The Associated Press

The FC Kansas City Blues are leaving town.

The National Women’s Soccer League franchise is expected either to fold or move to Salt Lake City, a source told The Star on Wednesday.

The Salt Lake Tribune later reported that Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City’s Western Conference foe, will announce its acquisition of an NWSL team in a news conference Thursday.

FCKC owner Elam Baer would not comment when reached by The Star.

The news comes in the wake of former coach Vlatko Andonovski’s resignation, and after a yearlong spiral for one of the most accomplished clubs in the NWSL.

FCKC became embroiled in a league investigation late last year after sexually suggestive emails allegedly sent by some of the team’s former owners were made public. The league said it was unable to verify the authenticity of the emails.

The team, which was owned by Chris Likens, his sons Brad and Greg, and Brian Budzinski, was put up for sale shortly afterward. Former general manager Huw Williams later resigned, citing the looming sale as a factor in his announcement.

The changes opened the door for Baer, founder and CEO of North Central Equity in Minneapolis, to purchase the team in January.

FCKC floundered on the field in 2017, staggering to an 8-9-7 record and a seventh-place finish. Rumors swirled about the team’s shoddy management, with sources telling Richard Farley of FourFourTwo that the Blues operated under the league minimum roster budget, among other things. Someone familiar with the situation told The Star there “is some truth” to the speculation.

When he discussed leaving FCKC for a coaching job with the Seattle Reign, Andonovski complimented the Reign’s dedication on the financial end. The Reign has long had a stable logistical infrastructure, he told The Star last week, and the owners have shown in the past a willingness to spend money on players and their needs.

“Kansas City has a good core, a good roster,” Andonovski said. “They’re missing a few pieces. But most importantly I think the support from the ownership is going to be the key.”

When reached two weeks ago to discuss the state of the team with regards to rumors about the team’s future in Kansas City, Baer said he could not comment at the time. He told The Star in January that he did not intend to move FCKC.

“When you look at the enormous on-field success this team has had, I don’t see any reason why I would go in there and make a lot of changes,” Baer said. “The bottom line is we need to sell more tickets and get more sponsorship revenue. If you accomplish those two things, a lot of other problems are solved pretty easily.”

FCKC's average announced attendance was 1,800 for 11 of their 12 home games at Swope Soccer Village this season, including an announced crowd of 3,340 for the season opener and a midweek match in August that drew 428 fans. FCKC did not announce attendance for a Sept. 9 match. FCKC averaged 3,162 fans per game in 2016.

Sporting Kansas City was not interested in purchasing FC Kansas City, sources told The Star. The U.S. Soccer Federation approached Sporting KC about the possibility at multiple junctures, including when FCKC changed ownership groups nearly a year ago. U.S. Soccer, which runs the NWSL, has long sought MLS partnerships — if not identical ownership groups — for its women’s clubs to offer stability.

Real Salt Lake, Sporting KC’s Western Conference foe, is currently affiliated with a team in the United Women’s Soccer league, a second-division league that formed in 2015. But Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen previously expressed interest in acquiring an NWSL franchise when the league expanded to 10 teams in 2016, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Orlando City was awarded the Orlando Pride instead.

Years later, Hansen could see his wish come true.

FC Kansas City, which debuted along with the NWSL in 2013, compiled a 47-35-25 record and two league championships in five years with Andonovski at the helm.