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Real Salt Lake owner says Manchester United game part of an 'absolute goal' to bring world powers to Utah every year

Published July 14, 2017 4:33 pm

Real Salt Lake • RSL owner says his team will be 'punching way above our weight' on the field, but that it will pay off in other ways.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

He knows his players will be outmatched.

With all due respect to Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, Manchester United's Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, and Marcus Rashford are household names in world football.

"We're punching way above our weight," Dell Loy Hansen acknowledges.



But if Real Salt Lake can't quite compare to a star-studded Manchester United team on the field Monday night, when the two clubs get together for an exhibition game at Rio Tinto Stadium, Hansen believes his soccer team is well suited to compete with other markets as he aims to entice other world soccer powers to visit Utah for these kinds of games in the future.

"Being in Utah, we're not New York, or Miami, or Seattle, or L.A.," Hansen said. "But we're in a great position."

A year ago, RSL hosted Italy's Inter Milan (a 2-1 victory for the visitors), and on Monday night Jose Mourinho's United club will take the field at Rio Tinto Stadium.

"We're developing relationships with clubs that are interested in building their worldwide brands," Hansen said.

And Hansen expects to bring another major team every year, so long as he remains the owner of the team.

"It's an absolute goal each year," he said.

As soon as RSL officials caught wind of the English club's tour plans last fall, they made contact in hopes of putting together a match.

"We have to be really attune to when these teams are planning their tours," Hansen said.

Hansen said RSL officials had initially engaged in talks with another major English club.

"We could have cut a deal with Liverpool," he said. "We were fairly close. But we found we could marry our schedule with United's better."

United's tour includes stops in Los Angeles, Houston, Santa Clara, Calif., and Washington, D.C.

Salt Lake is a much smaller market than those cities, but Hansen believes Utah can still negotiate from a position of strength.

For clubs touring the U.S., Salt Lake can offer a stop between coasts in a market that has embraced soccer.

"You're rewarding a city that has welcomed soccer and been successful with it," said David Herman, who helps run Manchester United's supporters group in the U.S.

And when Real Salt Lake's training facility in Herriman is completed later this year, Hansen said he hopes to entice other clubs to use the facility as a home base between dates along West Coast tours. The Herriman facility will include a 4,000-square foot facility for visiting teams, with access to five grass fields.

"I think it's a huge testament of where we've come as a league, but also how far we've come as a club," RSL assistant general manager Elliott Fall said. "You're starting to see these clubs show a real interest in coming out there. I think our new facility in Herriman is only going to bolster that."

Fall considers himself a fan of United, though he didn't need to push Hansen to make the deal with the soccer giant.

"If you can get them, you pull the trigger," Fall said.

Hansen, meanwhile, has said he wants Monday's game to be a test for his team.

"We need to do that from time to time," he said. "We want to constantly test to see how our club is progressing. We want to play against the best in the world."

But the owner also said he wants these matches to be "a reward" for fans, players and sponsors alike.

A few weeks ago, Hansen received a message from a family member on a trip to London. The photograph of the London subway showed an advertisement for an upcoming Manchester United match.

The opponent? That'd be Real Salt Lake.

"This is going to be the biggest audience ever for an RSL game," he said.

Hansen expects "tens of millions" people around the world to tune in to catch a glimpse on United's preseason warmup. And, in they process, they will see a view of the Wasatch Mountains behind Rio Tinto Stadium, Hansen's RSL players, and all the ads from local sponsors who support the team.

"We want it to be a reward for everyone," he said.

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk —

Real Salt Lake vs. the World

RSL played its first game against international competition in 2005. A year later they hosted Spanish power Real Madrid at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Overall, the Utah club is 18-10-10 all-time against clubs from other countries.

Manchester United at RSL

P Monday, 8 p.m.

TV • ESPN2

 

 

 

 

 

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