FC Kansas City ceases operation after five seasons in the NWSL

Two-time National Women's Soccer League champion, the FC Kansas City Blues have folded with the franchise being transferred to Salt Lake City by the league.

FC Kansas City ceases operation after five seasons in the NWSL
The FC Kansas City players pose for their pre-game picture before the May 27th match against the Washington Spirit at Swope Soccer Village | Photo: Nick Tre. Smith - Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the second season in a row the National Women's Soccer League will see a team move cities, but this time the team wasn't sold by choice. FC Kansas City, facing a drop in attendance and an inability to find a suitable buyer for the team, decided to close down its operation in Missouri and turn over the team to the National Women's Soccer League. The league then transferred the tenth spot in the league to Major League Soccer club Real Salt Lake. The players from FCKC, also known as the Blues, will be transferred to Real Salt Lake and the new team in Utah will take over the 2018 draft picks that would have been utilized by the Blues.

NWSL Managing Direct of Operations Amanda Duffy said in the official league press release, "First, we’d like to recognize and thank [team owner] Elam Baer and FC Kansas City LLC for their efforts this past year. We appreciate his commitment in helping the NWSL move forward. 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." The release went on to praise the fans and had originally been planned to come out at the same time as the announcement of the new team in Salt Lake City, Utah. Legal issues with FCKC caused the one day delay in the release of this news.

A Tough 2017 Season

Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart dives on the ball as Becky Sauerbrunn (far left) hustles back on defense. | Photo: Diego Diaz - Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart dives on the ball as Becky Sauerbrunn (far left) hustles back on defense. | Photo: Diego Diaz - Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The writing was on the wall for FC Kansas City during the season. The team lost Amy Rodriguez to an ACL injury in the first game of the season after she missed all of 2016 on maternity leave. The team consistently failed to draw crowds to its stadium at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Missouri. The team's average attendance of 1,788 was the lowest in its history and was nearly 1,000 fans lower than the next lowest team in the league (Sky Blue FC had an average attendance of 2,613 in 2017). The team had over 3,100 fans in attendance on average in 2016. The final card to fall, and the true signal of the end, was when head coach Vlatko Andonovski left to coach Seattle Reign FC after the departure of head coach Laura Harvey. Andonovski, the man who led FCKC to both of its championships over the Reign in 2014 and 2015, was never offered a new contract for the 2018 season. Thirteen days after the announcement of his move to Seattle the league announced the end of FC Kansas City.

An Impressive Start and a Slow Fade

When the league started, the allocated players from the three different soccer federations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico were divvied up amongst the eight founding teams. The Blues would be awarded Nicole Barnhart, Lauren Cheney (now Lauren Holiday) and Becky Sauerbrunn from the American allocated players and Desiree Scott and Lauren Sesselmann. Three of those three players, Barnhart, Sauerbrunn, and Scott, were all still playing for FCKC in 2017, which is more than any other team retained over those five seasons. The Kansas City defense was always the pride of the team, and the team allowed the fewest goals over five season of any founding team in the league. In 2013 the star goalkeeper, Nicole Barnhart, set a league record of 10 shutouts in a season that would stand until 2017 when Adrianna Franch broke the record.

FC Kansas City celebrates after winning their first championship 2-1 over the Seattle Reign in 2014. The team would go on to beat Seattle again in the 2015 championship game. | Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer - Getty Images
FC Kansas City celebrates after winning their first championship 2-1 over the Seattle Reign in 2014. The team would go on to beat Seattle again in the 2015 championship game. | Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer - Getty Images

The club was generally a success, making the playoffs in each of the first three league seasons. The second, second, and third place finish made FC Kansas City the only team to make the playoffs in each of the first three NWSL seasons and the team remains the only back-to-back champions in league history. The total record of the team over its 110 game lifespan was 45 wins, 36 losses, and 27 draws. Unfortunately for the team, the 2016 and 2017 seasons saw the team end sixth and seventh on the table, respectively, and support from the fans waned. FC Kansas City is the second founding team to exit the league after the Western New York Flash were sold and relocated to North Carolina for the 2017 season. 

Any fans who made a deposit on season tickets for the 2018 season will be issued a refund without needing to contact the team.