SANDY, Utah (Monday, November 27, 2017) – Real Salt Lake General Manager Craig Waibel introduced via teleconference on Monday that two-time NWSL Coach of the Year Laura Harvey will serve as the inaugural Head Coach for RSL’s entry into the National Women’s Soccer League, to begin play in the Spring of 2018, the league’s sixth season. (NOTE FOR LOCAL MEDIA: Harvey will arrive in Salt Lake and be available for one-on-one interviews on Thursday, Nov. 30 – please contact RSL Communications to schedule.)
“Visiting with [RSL Owner] Dell Loy Hansen, Craig Waibel, Mike Petke and others and having the chance to see their vision for the Club locally and the sport nationally and internationally, it was impossible not to get excited about what RSL looks to do for women’s soccer,” said the England-born Harvey, noting that an NWSL return was not part of her initial plan. “The facilities and environment that we will be able to offer our players are world-class. This is a great place for me to continue to develop as a coach, and I believe we will be able to make a huge stamp on women’s soccer not just in Utah but nationwide.”
Harvey, 37, guided the Seattle Reign to the NWSL Final twice in the last five seasons, winning the NWSL Shield for the league’s top regular-season record in both 2014 and 2015. Harvey, who departed the Reign in early November and was targeted for multiple international coaching opportunities, won the NWSL Coach of the Year award following both Shield-winning seasons.
“Laura’s record of excellence has been proven on both sides of the pond, and she obviously possesses a vast knowledge not only of the NWSL but of international players all over the world,” said Waibel, now entering his fifth season in Utah. “Much has been made of our whirlwind entry into NWSL over the last 10 days, but we have targeted Laura since the outset as the top candidate for this opportunity. She’s certainly the right fit given our club culture and how she sees the game and wants it to be played.”
During her five years with the Reign, Harvey held the league’s second-best all-time regular-season record at 51-33-26, earning 179 points over 110 matches. Harvey – the lone head coach Seattle had ever known prior to her resignation earlier this month, on Nov. 7 – assumed the club’s General Manager duties midway through its inaugural 2013 season, a post she held concurrently throughout her Seattle reign.
That year, the Reign finished with the second-worst record, but rebounded the following year kick off the campaign with a 13-0-3 start en route to claiming the NWSL’s all-time best regular-season finish in 2014 with a 16-2-6 overall mark and 54 points (2.25 points per match). That historic 2014 season also saw the Harvey-led Reign boast a share of the record for most wins in a season (16, tied with 2017 North Carolina), while featuring the league’s best all-time single-season goal differential (+30) and longest-ever unbeaten streak (16 games).
"Our goal is to build the very best women's sports organization in America, and we were advised from the outset that Laura Harvey was the very best coach on the market," said RSL Owner Dell Loy Hansen, just weeks before the club opens the $73 million Zions Bank Real Academy in Herriman, Utah, 15 minutes southwest of Rio Tinto Stadium. "Only 25 days ago was I asked to look into this opportunity, and we knew we not only wanted to join the NWSL as quickly as possible and participate, but we believe that our current infrastructure as well as the development initiatives on the RSL horizon align perfectly with Laura’s vision for how she wants to build a program – again, with the goal of being the best around. Our community is already passionate about women's sports, and we believe that empowering and advancing the women's game accelerates the change to build a better Utah."
The British-born Harvey grew up in Bulkington, a village in Warwickshire, England. She attended George Eliot School in Nuneaton and played football for the Coventry City L.F.C. At age 22, Harvey tore her ACL while playing for Birmingham City L.F.C., thus kicking off her coaching career.
Before arriving to the fledgling NWSL in 2013, Harvey served as assistant coach for the England women's national football team at the U-17, U-19 and U-23 levels from 2005-2011. She then was brought on as Manager of Arsenal L.F.C., where from 2010-12 Arsenal was the 2010 FA Women’s Premier League Champion, the 2011 FA Women’s Cup winner, the 2011 and 2012 FA Women’s Super League Champion, and the 2011 and 2012 FA WSL Continental Cup winner. For her efforts, Harvey was named Women's Super League Coach of the Season in 2011.
RSL will participate in the NWSL for what will be an historic sixth season. During this past 2017 season, the NWSL celebrated the 500th game in league history – more than the combined total of the two previous women’s leagues – as it continued to push women’s professional soccer to new heights as the best league in the world.
Portland Thorns FC capped off the league’s fifth campaign with a 1-0 victory in October over the North Carolina Courage in the 2017 NWSL Championship Game, as the Thorns joined FC Kansas City as the only two clubs to win the league title on multiple occasions. The Western New York Flash is the only other team to lift the NWSL Championship trophy (2016).
The 2018 season will once again feature widespread national television coverage, as the NWSL Game of the Week appears via Lifetime every Saturday during the regular season, while livestreams of non-National NWSL matches are available on the go90 app and on the league's website. International fans will also be able to continue to watch games on the new NWSL app and a revamped NWSLsoccer.com – both of which will strengthened with additional features and improvements for 2018.
For more information on the Real Salt Lake entry into NWSL, visit www.RSL.com/NWSL or follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is a ten-team Division-I women’s professional soccer league featuring national team players from around the world. The clubs joining Real Salt Lake’s entry are the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride, Portland Thorns FC, Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC, and the Washington Spirit. Based in Chicago, the NWSL is supported by the Canadian Soccer Association and the United States Soccer Federation. For more information about the NWSL, log on to the league’s official website at www.NWSLsoccer.com.
The NWSL previously added new teams to the league on two occasions – with the Houston Dash becoming the league’s first expansion club in 2014, followed by the Orlando Pride in 2016. The North Carolina Courage were also welcomed into the fold in 2017 following the acquisition and relocation of the Western New York Flash to the Tar Heel State.
About REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake recently concluded off its 13th Major League Soccer season in 2017. The club’s MLS Cup 2009 victory marked the state of Utah’s only major professional championship in nearly 40 years, the title preceding an historic run to the 2010/11 CONCACAF Champions League Final. Buoyed by a passionate base now approaching 14,000+ season ticket holders, RSL has enjoyed a prominent home-field advantage since building its permanent Rio Tinto Stadium home in Sandy.
In 2015, the club expanded its development pyramid with the addition of Real Monarchs, one of several MLS-operated clubs playing in the USL, the United States’ Division II setup. The RSL Foundation was established in 2016, created with the goals of being active in the community year-round, utilizing the popularity and reach of RSL and the Monarchs in promoting health and wellness in children throughout the region, engaging supporters of soccer to raise funds and volunteer time for various local initiatives.
Lastly, in 2017, Owner Dell Loy Hansen opened the Zions Bank Real Academy – a world-class training facility that will host teams at all levels of the pyramid, from Major League Soccer to USL and U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-19 and U-17 sides.
Next Monday, December 4, Hansen and RSL will celebrate the ribbon-cutting of a new North Logan facility, the first of a half-dozen regional training centers aimed at providing opportunity and instruction for children ages 7-14. Each facility will house an indoor field, an outdoor field and a classroom, with a curriculum for player, coaching and referee education.