Sandy • Rio Tinto Stadium will play host to a World Cup Qualifying match and two Gold Cup matches this summer, The Salt Lake Tribune confirmed Tuesday.
According to a source, the World Cup qualifier between the United States men’s national team and Honduras will be played on June 18.
Then, on July 13, Rio Tinto will be the site for Gold Cup matches between the U.S. and Cuba as well as Costa Rica and Belize.
“I think it’s fantastic for the fans — they deserve it,” said Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who has spent time with the national team.
“... We play in a stadium where they bring it every time. I have no doubt, when the U.S. shows up, there’s going to be a ton of flags waving red, white and blue.”
Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl agrees that the support Utah fans show RSL was a key to Rio Tinto securing the upcoming games.
“It’s obviously a good sign for Utah and for the confidence that the U.S. Soccer Federation has in going there,” he said.
“The quality of soccer stadiums in the U.S. has improved so much over the past 10-15 years. There’s real competition now between good soccer stadiums for these events.”
A solid history in Utah could have helped bring such high-caliber matches back to the state.
In March 2005, more than 40,000 people watched the U.S. team beat Costa Rica 3-0 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The smaller Rio Tinto Stadium was at its 20,500-seat capacity for a World Cup qualifier against El Salvador in 2009.
“Honestly, you want to go to place where the crowd is cheering mostly for the United States,” Wahl said. “That has seemed to happen in most occasions there. And you want to go to a place where you’ve had success in the past.”
Said Rimando: “The climate alone — the stadium, the way we pack the stadium, the way the fans react when their team is on the field — is very special. Without a doubt, it’s a place where the U.S. will feel at home.”
— Reporter Steve Luhm contributed to this story