New team will have a tough time winning over a non-soccer town

Technically, Real Salt Lake has already played two games, but neither of them matter when compared to what’s at stake Saturday. Utah’s newest sports team won’t be playing just for a victory, they will be playing for survival.

Thanks to the 2002 success of the American World Cup team, soccer is quickly increasing in popularity. But there’s a difference between turning on ESPN to watch Landon Donovan play against Germany and shelling out the money required to take your family to a pro sporting event.

Tampa Bay and Miami have already been unable to support Major League Soccer, and in order for Salt Lake not to fall into the same boat, Real will have to impress on Saturday.

Many in the crowd of 30,000 will have been weaned on the Jazz. While I’m sure they won’t be expecting a score in the 100s, they definitely won’t be willing to sit idly by and be content with a 0-0 tie.

This is the one big chance the home team will have to win over the city. If Real wins a tight 3-2 game, with Clint Mathis showing off his flair and D.J. Countess making some sprawling saves, they have a shot at spawning some true blue (and claret red and gold) Real fans.

If not, well…

Wherever you go, there will always be soccer fans. Even on the International Space Station, I’m sure you can find a debate about Arsenal vs. Chelsea on a pretty regular basis.

But even in a pretty outdoorsy city like Salt Lake City, those diehards will not be enough to fill up Rice-Eccles, or even the hopefully forthcoming Rocky Anderson Field. In order to be successful, Real will need the support from “viewers like you.”

Across the valley, radio shows are filling the post-Utes void with chatter about whether or not people will embrace Real. The general consensus seems to be that the average listener will give the team one shot, and if they are not impressed, will jettison them out of their realm of thought.

If that should happen, Real probably won’t be around for 2006, and perhaps it will even hurt Utah’s chances at landing a major league baseball or football team.

The pressure is on. Let’s see what Real can do.

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