Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Real Salt Lake Updates

I was able to sit down with Bill Manning today and can pass along a few updates:

All-Star Game:

One thing I did not realize is that the All-Star Game opponent is actually chosen and negotiated with by the team hosting the event. I assumed that the league was the one driving this, but it's Bill Manning and team.

There are actually still two teams in the mix for this. One team was close to being contracted, but there have been issues regarding TV rights. If these cannot be worked out, then there is a second option. Both teams are top tier European teams, but neither are one of the "Top 5", simply because those teams are too expensive.

Real Madrid Relationship:

This is currently in limbo because of the resignation earlier this year of Real Madrid's President Ramon Caulderon. Real Salt Lake owner Dave Checkett's had a very good relationship with Caulderon, and his departure was likely an initial blow to the team. However, Checkett's also has a relationship with various board members of Real Madrid, and as soon as a successor is in place discussions about the relationship will likely resume.

Ogden Outlaws Relationship:

Real Salt Lake will have a close working partnership with the Ogden Outlaws this season and beyond. RSL Coach Jeff Cassar will be involved with scouting and mentoring players during the season. The team will provide some sponsorship to the PDL club, and also helped the Outlaws land former Dallas Burn player Ted Eck as their Head Coach. Also look for young RSL prospects such as James Rogers to potentially play with the team as a way to further enhance their soccer training in an effort to get them ready to take the step up to Major League Soccer. Update: Here is the press release on the Outlaws/RSL relationship. And another one on the hiring of Ted Eck.

Austin Aztex:

As was widely speculated, the rumored USL-1 opponent for the March 21st exhibition match will be the Austin Aztecs. Contract was recently finalized and this has been confirmed.

Season Tickets:

Season ticket sales died during the Dec/Jan period after a strong renewal surrounding the stadium opener. However, new sales have picked up in recent weeks. The team is expecting to be at 7,000 season tickets sold (outside of corporate sales). Comparing to previous years is a bit difficult as they previously counted corporate/sponsorship tickets in the season ticket count. Now especially with the suites it's important to break these out. Either way this represents a healthy increase over 2008. The team also is projected to be 3rd in the league for ticket revenue (behind Seattle and Toronto presumably).

Charleston Tournament:

This upcoming Charleston Tournament is crucial for Luis Escalada who has reportedly lost 10 pounds and has improved his fitness. He is a back to the goal player who stays primarily in front of the goal. He can knock the ball down and distribute. If he can get into proper form and fitness the team feels that he would potentially be a good complement to either Yura Movsisyan or Robbie Findley on the pitch. This upcoming tournament will be a key to see where he is at.

The tournament is also important for Clint Mathis who showed last season that he has the ability and will put in the effort. He was shut out from scoring last season, but that doesn't necessarily deter the RSL staff from relying on him. However, this Charleston Tournament may bring to light how Mathis may fit in during the upcoming year.

I was also able to get some insight from Manning on the current economic environment and the impact on RSL, and the rest of the league. I will share those thoughts in the near future.