Everyone in MLS should become a Real Salt Lake supporter for the next week. Cast aside league rivalries. Suspend any distaste for individual players. RSL is carrying the league flag in what is brewing to be the most important pair of matches since MLS was launched 15 years ago.
With a series victory over Mexican club Monterrey, Real would qualify for the Club World Cup in Japan in December — a new frontier for MLS, which has sought for years to catch up with Mexico in CONCACAF competitions and make in-roads on the global scene.
D.C. United (1998) and the Los Angeles Galaxy (2000) have won continental titles, but those single-match finals were played at home. D.C. moved on to the Interamerican Cup in ‘98, but the opponent, Brazil’s Vasco da Gama, didn’t hold the event in high regard — Vasco’s “home” leg was played in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — and the event was never held again. The Galaxy qualified for a world event in Spain that was later canceled when FIFA’s marketing partner went under.
Real Salt Lake has a real chance to bolster MLS’s mission. The first leg is Wednesday night in Monterrey (10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Telefutura), the second next Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.