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Women's History Month: Michelle Hyncik

For the last eighteen months, Real Salt Lake has been in a period of transition, a constant state of flux as the Club moves into a new era under new leadership, and at the forefront of it all is Michelle Hyncik, Vice President of Legal and General Counsel for Real Salt Lake. 

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hyncik moved with her family, including her two children under two, across the country, leaving behind her home in New York City for a job in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

As a graduate of Columbia Law School, Hyncik had spent almost all of her professional career in New York City, beginning with a corporate firm practicing as a regulatory attorney representing financial institutions. 

After several years of sinking her teeth into the corporate legal world, an opportunity arose to join Major League Soccer as legal counsel. Having grown up playing soccer and as a member of Harvard University women’s team, the transition seemed to be the logical next step in her career. 

“It wasn’t the most traditional route to move from a corporate firm to a sports league, but I was still able to parlay my skills into this new role,” Hyncik explained. “There is not a single path to follow for an in-house role in sports, my coworkers at the league all had different experiences and backgrounds prior to arriving at MLS.”

While working at the league, she had the opportunity to catch small glimpses of many of the clubs, including Real Salt Lake, attending games across the country, which is how she fell in love with the stadium nestled beneath the mountains of Wasatch Canyon, cloaked in Claret and Cobalt. 

“Having worked at the league, I knew the community and the state, Utah felt like a place where I wanted to plant roots and raise my family,” Hyncik said.

Her move to Real Salt Lake came at a time when the sports world was at a standstill, with the pandemic halting any and all activity. Hyncik was immediately tasked with finding a path forward for a return to play, her brainchild -- the 2020 National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup, the first official sports competition since the beginning of the Coronavirus. 

Hyncik worked on a collaborative team with the league, Club and local government officials to create, plan and execute the Challenge Cup. The tournament itself saw eight of the league’s nine teams come to Herriman, Utah, where they were quarantined in a bubble of practice facilities, stadium and hotels. 

Each of the eight teams brought a roster of 28 players, plus up to 10 staff members. Throughout the entirety of the tournament not a single individual within the bubble tested positive for the virus, making the NWSL not only the first professional sports organization to return to play, but also the first to do so without a single outbreak, or case of COVID-19. 

“We were able to be the architects of this incredible event, it was very much trial by fire in my first few months, but it was rewarding to be able to see it kick off, the success of the tournament felt like this bright spot in the midst of lots of panic,” Hyncik shared.”

Just a few months into her tenure as Real Salt Lake’s General Counsel, Hyncik was thrust into the deep end of legal work as the Club announced that it would begin the process of finding new ownership. 

For nearly 18 months, Hyncik was one of the few members who played a critical role in working with potential candidates and interested parties to provide them with everything they could possibly need to make their decision. 

All the while, Hyncik and her husband were preparing to welcome their third child. 

“During this time I was going through formative battles both personally and professionally, it was a period when everything was scary and up in the air, but it was a surprisingly smooth transition,” Hyncik recalled. “I was able to focus on the tasks at hand while feeling supported and understood by leadership.”

Now, as new owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith have officially taken over and the proverbial fires have dwindled, Hyncik has been able to step back and appreciate the last 18 months for what it has taught her both professionally and personally. 

“I’ve learned not to be afraid, or to hide the things that are important to me,” Hyncik said. “As women we should be vocal about the things we want, whether that may be family, relationships, or just professional desires to succeed.”

With perhaps the biggest landmarks of her time at RSL behind her Hyncik can now take a breath, and continue to do the job she loves within the legal framework she helped create as the Club enters into its new and fresh era.