SBD/April 27, 2011/Franchises

RSL Winning CONCACAF Tournament Could Be Game-Changer For MLS

RSL seeking to become first MLS team ever to win CONCACAF Champions League
Real Salt Lake Senior VP/Soccer Operations & GM Garth Lagerwey said that the MLS team's CONCACAF Champions League final game tonight against Mexican club Monterrey is "not only the biggest in the state’s soccer history, but one of the biggest sports events ever in Utah," according to Michael Anastasi of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. RSL would be the first MLS team ever to win this tournament, and Lagerwey called tonight's game at Rio Tinto Stadium a potentially "historic" national event. He added, "We have got to win. We are well past the point of moral victories. ... It’s a game-changer. It’s the potential tipping point in selling out our building every night." Anastasi notes the game is "so important to Major League Soccer itself that virtually the entire MLS national staff is flying in from New York to support RSL" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 4/27). Lagerwey said, "We get more respect outside our country than we do inside it. I think we'll win over a whole bunch of fans who simply can't ignore us if we're able to win and achieve consistent success" (USA TODAY, 4/27). In Salt Lake City, Michael Lewis writes RSL is "on the verge of what many believe would be the greatest accomplishment in the history of American soccer." Lagerwey: "We haven’t had that Lake Placid moment like the 1980 U.S. hockey team, but that’s the opportunity I think we have. I think we have an event of that scale that can put the world on notice that American soccer is taking another step forward" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 4/27).

HELPING THE BOTTOM LINE: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Fred Dreier reports RSL has parlayed its run in the CONCACAF Champions League "into increased sponsorship, strong ticket sales and additional local exposure." Unlike MLS teams in the past, RSL "has put significant promotion behind the tournament." Club President Bill Manning "credits its Champions League success for securing two new sponsors -- international home-security firm Vivint and Ford Motor Co. -- to six-figure, three-year deals" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/25 issue). In Utah, James Edward writes RSL's "total commitment to the CONCACAF Champions League has forever changed the way MLS teams view the tournament." No longer will MLS teams "view the competition as a bother, but rather a unique opportunity to stamp its name on the consciousness of the American soccer public." With a sellout crowd of more than 20,000 expected to attend tonight's game, Manning indicated that "gate receipts alone will net the team over half a million dollars." He added, "This will be our largest gate in our history." Edward notes combined with tonight's attendance, "nearly 100,000 fans will have watched RSL's march through the Champions League and Manning said collectively it's all been profitable" (DESERET NEWS, 4/27).

READY FOR THE SPOTLIGHT: The DESERET NEWS' Edward reports to "ensure a pro-RSL crowd, management only put tickets on sale to its estimated 7,000 season ticket holders" for tonight's game. Those fans "were allowed to buy additional tickets as well, up to double their season ticket allotment." Manning said that RSL has "sold more than 200 additional season tickets." Once "about 15,000 to 16,000 tickets were sold, RSL then opened up tickets to past single-game ticket buyers via email" (DESERET NEWS, 4/27). Meanwhile, RSL Dir of Public Affairs & Broadcasting Trey Fitz-Gerald said Rio Tinto Stadium will be "pretty much at full capacity" in terms of media for tonight's game. He added, "Certainly, every booth is being used. Just about every camera position and patch panel will be utilized in some way, shape or form." There will be about 75 "on- and off-air TV staffers on air for the game," which kicks off at 10:00pm ET on Fox Soccer Channel. Fitz-Gerald: "It’s pretty massive. It’s the most concurrent production we’ve ever had at Rio Tinto. Even more than for the (2009 MLS) All-Star Game." He estimated that a "total of 200 print and broadcast journalists will be there for the RSL-Monterrey game" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 4/27).
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