The Inaugural 24 Hours: “This is the best I’ve ever seen"

A whirlwind of excitement has engulfed Utah Royals FC in the past 24 hours, just three days from opening its first-ever training camp in Herriman of its inaugural season in the National Women’s Soccer League. As players begin to filter into the Salt Lake Valley, it has taken less than a day for the new team to experience its first dinner as a team, become acquainted as teammates and coaches—many of whom played together at previous organizations—received new cars, and walked through the brand-new locker room at Rio Tinto Stadium. 

“We set a goal to make this the best women’s team in the world, and if that’s our goal, then we need to provide nothing less than the best,” Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC owner Dell Loy Hansen explained at the inaugural team dinner on Thursday night. 

Little did the players know the dinner was not slated to be a typical team outing. Prior to ordering their meals, confusion diffused through the women when they were suddenly instructed to venture to the parking lot as group. Unaware of the impending gift, the Utah Royals FC squad walked out to find six brand new Ford EcoSports waiting in the parking lot. Many of the girls were handed keys in the Ford ceremonial car event with others receiving a monthly $100 Maverik gas card to pay for practice and training travel.

“It is incredible how the Utah Royals FC have been able to take care of us like this,” midfielder Erika Tymrak said. “I know that the women are so grateful for everything that has been given to us. Everyone is speechless.” 

Just 15 hours later, the team arrived at the $1 million Utah Royals FC locker room at Rio Tinto Stadium for the first time. Walking through the doors of their new locker room for the first time left the women awestruck. Shrieks of excitement filled the large locker room, while others were left speechless. For the players and staff, amenities at Rio Tinto Stadium include a world-class facility, with individually named lockers, a lounge and kitchen area, vanity, training area, exercise room, technical offices, and equipment room.

Hansen concluded the incredible tour by tearfully promising to fly each woman’s families out for the inaugural home game at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 14. His closing remarks struck a deep emotion for many members of the new team, prompting gracious hugs, tears, and expressions of gratitude.

“This has been emotional for me. I’ve been playing professionally for a number of years, and I’ve lived apart from my boyfriend for all of them. So [playing professionally] is a conscious decision that I have to make every single year,” USWNT co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn said. “To have someone like Dell Loy that recognizes the sacrifices that we make—to make that a little bit easier—is wonderful. We got emotional because there are husbands, there are partners, there are children that are being left behind.”

Utah Royals FC will begin preseason for its inaugural season in the NWSL on Monday February 19 at the Zions Bank Real Academy in Herriman.