SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) - The brand new Real Salt Lake women's professional soccer team has its very first head coach.
Laura Harvey, a two-time National Women's Soccer League Coach of the Year was announced as the team's head coach by general manager Craig Waibel on Monday.
The RSL women's team will begin its inaugural season in the spring of 2018, the league's sixth season.
"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 Harvey in a statement. "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 Hansen. "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.
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