REAL SALT LAKE FC
On July 14, 2004, Real Salt Lake became Major League Soccer's 12th franchise, whose name was inspired by the Spanish soccer giant, Real Madrid. The team became one of only a handful of professional sports franchises in the state of Utah, and in 2005, the team played in front of a capacity crowd against the Colorado Rapids. The team began play at Rice-Eccles Stadium, also home to University of Utah football and the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in 2002. Like many expansion teams in their first few years, Real Salt Lake went through its share of growing pains, but would eventually become one of the best teams in the MLS. After a three year postseason drought, Real Salt Lake was riding high in 2008 after moving into their state-of-the-art facility, Rio Tinto Stadium. This soccer-specific venue is one of the most picturesque locales in the league and gave the team its first true home that they could call their own. Real Salt Lake hung around in the standings all season long and won a tie-breaking match against the Colorado Rapids in the final game of the season to sneak into the playoffs. The team would surprise Chivas USA in the opening round, but fell just short of a trip to the MLS Cup by losing to Red Bull New York.
In 2009, Real Salt Lake fans enjoyed one of the most surprising postseason runs in MLS history, which carried the team to its first championship. The squad finished with an 11-12-7 record and managed to capture the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. In the first round, Real Salt Lake shocked defending MLS champion Columbus Crew, and would then knock off the Chicago Fire on a shootout goal to reach their first MLS Cup. Even though the team were heavy underdogs, the stellar play of goalkeeper Nick Rimando and timely goals from Robbie Findlay gave Real Salt Lake a surprise championship victory. Fresh off their first MLS title, Real Salt Lake continued winning and made the playoffs in 2010 and 2011, with an appearance in the semifinals in 2011. The team has truly become one of the best squads in the Western Conference and has gained legions of new fans thanks to their recent postseason success. While the team's 2009 championship was a complete surprise, fans of Real Salt Lake believe that their team has gained respect from around the league as true MLS Cup contenders.