Real Salt Lake also known as RSL, is an American professional soccer franchise that competes as a member club of Major League Soccer (MLS) in the Western Conference.
The club was founded in 2004 when the club’s first owner and founder was awarded an expansion berth in Major League Soccer. RSL began to play in 2005 as an expansion team of the league.
The club plays its home games at Rio Tinto Stadium which has a capacity of 20,213 seats. The soccer-specific stadium located in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy, Utah, which they share with their sister team, Utah Royals FC. Before moving to Rio Tinto, RSL played home games at Rice-Eccles Stadium, located on the campus of the University of Utah, from 2005–2007.
The team’s official colors are claret red, cobalt blue, and real gold which informed the club’s nickname, Claret and Cobalt. Real Salt Lake is owned by Dell Loy Hansen and currently led by interim head coach Freddy Juarez.
Real Salt Lake won the 2009 MLS Cup, the Supporters Shield in 2010, and the 2013 edition of the U.S. Open Cup. They were runners-up in the 2013 MLS Cup. The franchise regional success to date was in the 2010–11 CONCACAF Champions League, where RSL finished runners-up in the tournament. The club became the first American club since the CONCACAF Champions League format was introduced in 2008, to advance to the final stage of the tournament. Their fully owned USL affiliate, Real Monarchs, won the 2019 USL Championship, the second division title in American soccer.
Real Salt Lake became the twelfth MLS franchise when Major League Soccer awarded an expansion franchise on July 14, 2004, to SCP Worldwide, headed by Dave Checketts.
Jason Kreis became the first player in RSL history, coming in a trade from the Dallas Burn. Other notable players that played in RSL’s early years include veterans Clint Mathis, Eddie Pope, and Jeff Cunningham.
RSL’s first season was 2005 under head coach John Ellinger. RSL began to play on April 2, 2005, against New York MetroStars at Giants Stadium, which ended in a scoreless tie. The following week, Jason Kreis scored the first goal in franchise history in a 3–1 loss to LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.
RSL played its first-ever home match on April 16, 2005, before 25,287 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium; Brian Dunseth scored a header in the 81st minute to deliver a 1–0 victory over the Colorado Rapids.
The season was mostly a disappointment, however, with the team setting a league record by posting a 557-minute scoreless streak (later broken by Toronto FC). They were also on a 10-game losing streak before managing a 2–2 draw on the road against San Jose Earthquakes. The first season finished with a record of 5–22–5.
In 2006, Real Salt Lake’s second season, the team recorded five losses and one tie in the first six matches of the season. RSL had gone 18 consecutive matches without a victory—the longest winless streak in MLS history.
Jeff Cunningham, who came to Salt Lake from Colorado, provided most of Real’s highlights during an otherwise poor 2006 season. The team failed to qualify for the playoffs, finishing with a 10–13–9 record.
In the 2009 MLS season, RSL proved nearly invincible at home, having a 9–1–5 record in Rio Tinto Stadium, with a record-setting 23 goal plus differential. Real Salt Lake did not lose a league game at home since May 2009. However, the team struggled to maintain form during road games. In the final weeks of the regular season, RSL found itself in a battle for the final two spots in the MLS playoffs.
However, thanks to a victory over Colorado in the final game of the regular season, RSL clinched a position in the 2009 MLS playoffs. Despite finishing with a losing record overall (11–12–7), the team was granted the last spot through a tie-breaker. Real Salt Lake went on to win the 2009 MLS Cup by defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy in the November 22 final.
RSL played the L.A. Galaxy to a 1–1 tie through overtime and won the MLS Cup (5–4 on penalties). Robbie Russell won the game on a penalty kick. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando was named Man of the Match. The victory in the 2009 MLS Cup qualified RSL for the 2010–11 CONCACAF Champions League.
The 2010 season saw RSL continue its home unbeaten streak. On October 16, 2010, Real Salt Lake improved their home unbeaten streak to 25 games after beating the FC Dallas. This win gave Real Salt Lake the most consecutive home games without a loss in MLS history.
The highest-paid player in Real Salt Lake is Slovak professional footballer Albert Rusnak. The attacking midfielder earns $1,800,000 a base salary.
Real Salt Lake player salaries for 2019, as released by the MLS Players Union, as of June 1, 2019.