Utah Royals fan will drive hundreds of miles to see the team in person

The Royals open their 2024 season Saturday at America First Field.

(Courtesy of Katey Orr) Utah Royals fan Katey Orr lives in Denver, but is willing to fly and drive 500 miles to see the team in person.

A few times this year, Katey Orr will get into her car in Denver, drive north on Interstate 25 to the I-80 West, zip through southern Wyoming, pass Park City and enter Salt Lake City. It’s 500 miles and about eight hours of drive time.

That’s how much she loves the Utah Royals.

On Saturday, America First Field will be sold out for the Royals’ first game of 2024, team officials said. There will be other pregame festivities for fans to enjoy. Orr will be there for all of it, and then some.

Orr never got the chance to use her Royals season tickets in 2020. First, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Then, the team was sold and moved to Kansas City.

“It’s been hard watching NWSL the past three years without having a team to cheer for,” Orr said.

Those days are over.

Once Orr saw news that the Royals would return in 2024, she made sure to get season tickets again — even if it meant traversing multiple states.

Orr may be the only person driving eight hours to attend Royals games at America First Stadium. But she’s one of thousands of dedicated fans who are practically delirious over the team returning to Utah.

“So [expletive] hyped,” fan Eli Allen said.

The Royals start their “inaugural” season Saturday against the Chicago Red Stars. “Inaugural” is in quotes because, while it’s technically an expansion team, the team existed in Utah in 2018 and 2019 after FC Kansas City folded and former Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen bought out the players’ contracts and launched a team in just a few months.

The Royals returning to Kansas City in 2020 brought the fan base anguish. Their first questions to new RSL owners Ryan Smith and David Blitzer when they bought the team was, “When are you bringing back the Royals?” There was always an option for the new owners to resurrect the women’s team that averaged the second-highest attendance in the entire National Women’s Soccer League.

Many fans are simply looking forward to watching the Royals play. But others have more specific anticipations, from seeing the team jell around first-time coach Amy Rodriguez to, as Andrew Knight said, “being able to take my girls and have them see that women can play soccer too.”

“I have been a fan since Day 1,” Knight said. “Being a soccer fan and having a men’s team was fun but having three little girls, I always wanted someone they could look up to.”

Orr is flying to Salt Lake City for Saturday’s home opener due to the current weather in Colorado. She has travel plans for the first three games and plans to attend a total of six or seven, she said.

And even though Orr has been whetting her soccer appetite these last three years with the NWSL at large, the sacrifice she’s making to travel for the Royals seems worth it to her.

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