FC Kansas City

FC Kansas City women’s soccer team folds, NWSL sends players to Salt Lake City

FC Kansas City players including Sydney Leroux Dwyer (14) will be reassigned to Salt Lake City.
FC Kansas City players including Sydney Leroux Dwyer (14) will be reassigned to Salt Lake City. skeyser@kcstar.com

FC Kansas City has ceased operations.

The National Women’s Soccer League confirmed Monday that it had reacquired FCKC’s membership interest from owner Elam Baer, effectively folding the club.

The announcement comes days after a new franchise in Salt Lake City was introduced. At the time, NWSL managing director Amanda Duffy said that the league would not expand its current 10-team format, leaving Kansas City as the odd club out.

“We sincerely appreciate and respect the level of play that Kansas City brought to the league for five years, but due to market challenges over the years, this decision was the best solution for the continued growth of the league at this time,” Duffy said on Monday in an email to The Star.

FC Kansas City’s championships from 2014 and 2015 will not transfer to the new team. But because the league manages the contracts of all the team’s players — including U.S. women’s national teamers Becky Sauerbrunn, Sydney Leroux Dwyer and Amy Rodriguez, and Liberty native Shea Groom — the rights to any FCKC Blues who were under contract for 2018 were assigned to the team in Salt Lake City.

The new team will also take FCKC’s spots in the 2018 draft, the discovery and waiver tiebreakers and the distribution ranking order.

“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,” Baer said in an official release. “I wish the NWSL a bright future and our former FC Kansas City players continued success in their careers on and off the field.”

The NWSL planned to announce FCKC’s folding and the addition of the franchise in Salt Lake City, which was awarded to MLS club Real Salt Lake, at the same time. A legal holdup forced FC Kansas City and the league to remain quiet about the future of FCKC, which was called into question when rumors about the team’s lack of resources surfaced toward the end of the season.

When the season ended Oct. 1, FCKC players were uncertain if they would return to play in the Midwest next year. The club continued to operate as though it would, exercising options on eight players and extending contract offers to another nine, including veteran goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.

But at the beginning of November, the NWSL approached Real Salt Lake executives about acquiring a new franchise. By then, FC Kansas City’s demise was all but official.

Sources told The Star that the ownership group, which took over in January, spent considerably less on marketing, staffing and team operations than the previous regime.

The club announced a 32 percent drop in overall attendance — 31,624 last year to 21,456 this season — despite playing two more home games in 2017. FCKC also saw a sharp drop in average announced attendance per game, going from 3,162 over 10 games in 2016 to 1,788 over 12 games in 2017.

The NWSL saw an 8.9 percent dip in attendance per game in 2017 but a 9 percent increase in overall attendance. Of four clubs that saw attendance figures dip, FCKC was the only one to see a decline greater than 15 percent.

Asked if Kansas City could still be a viable market for professional women’s soccer, Duffy said, “Given a different set of circumstances, yes.”

Anyone who made season-ticket deposits for 2018 will receive a refund. Fans will not need to contact FCKC to initiate the process.