For Vasquez, soccer isn't just a sport, but a passion. When he moved to California in 1975 and then to Salt Lake City in 1997, he took his love with him, packed tightly and securely in his heart.
"Soccer isn't just about the game," he said. "It's why families come together. Some like basketball and baseball, we love soccer."
The "we" he speaks of is the large Latino population in Salt Lake City, a sports market that hasn't been fully tapped. That is expected to change, with the addition Real Salt Lake,
an expansion team into Major League Soccer.
According to the 2000 census, there are 201,000 Latinos in Utah, an increase of 138 percent from 1990. In Salt Lake County alone, 12 to 14 percent of the population is Latino. The numbers are considered a low estimate by many experts because of a number of undocumented residents.
But go to a Jazz or a college football game, look in the stands, and you wouldn't think those numbers were even that high.
Soccer, though, has a different feel altogether. It is one of the fastest growing sports in America, but in the rest of the world, particularly the Latino world, it has been the most popular for many years. For MLS, the Latino population is actively courted and an integral part of the league's business planning and its success.
Many front-office personnel speak Spanish, for example, and team names are either in Spanish (such as Real, or regal, Salt Lake) or easily translatable. It is in part due to the region's large Latino population that RSL officials are confident the team will succeed here.
"Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, all of those countries have done very well in the World Cup," said Mark Alvarez, the administrator of minority affairs for Salt Lake. "The success is part of the reason. Latinos grow up following the sport like Americans do with baseball. It's an incredibly social event."
It is a rainy Thursday night in Salt Lake City, but the indoor soccer facility in Murray is buzzing with activity. Inside, three men - Jesus Moreno, Carlos Salinas and Jose Gasca - are kicking back in the stands as their eyes follow the soccer game playing out before them.
For the trio, soccer is part of their evening activity for four or five nights out of the week. Tonight they are a support group, cheering on their wives and sisters.
"Five years ago, everyone used to play Junior Jazz," said Salinas, who like his friends was born in Mexico. "Now we have a whole bunch of soccer leagues to play in. In Mexico, we'd play in the streets until cars would push you to the side. I love the game."
The three are part of a subculture that exists in Salt Lake City revolving around soccer. There are at least five Latino soccer leagues that play in Salt Lake City, often with both indoor and outdoor seasons.
On Sundays in the spring through the fall, games can be found across the city, including Rose Park and Liberty Park. Some games are broadcast by local radio stations; crowd control became such an issue, the mayor's office had to get involved.
"People were upset because so many players and fans were parking in their driveways and all over," said Archie Archuletta, the former administrator of minority affairs. "Many Americans were raised on hamburgers and hot dogs at the ball fields; for Latinos it is soccer. It's a totally different aspect."
Vasquez tapped into the market shortly after moving to Salt Lake City in 1997. Vasquez, the news director for Telemundo, started a Latino soccer league called the Continental League.
The first year the league had 40 teams for an indoor season. Many of those dropped off because of space limitations, but with the addition of the Olympic Oval in Kearns and the facility in Murray, the league has grown to 72 teams.
Participation isn't a problem, but will Latinos support an MLS team? History shows residents with ties to other countries will. Latinos are a big draw for Los Angeles' team, the Galaxy, one of the few MLS teams to turn a profit. Chicago draws from its large Polish population, with game-day parties often held in Polish bars and all announcements made in both English and Polish.
"The essence of our sport isn't to make it closer to any culture," said Steve Pastorino, RSL's general manager who has lived in several Latin countries and speaks Spanish fluently. "The MLS has been successful because we're giving them the sport as they are used to it. It is the world's sport, and our country is becoming more and more integrated."
In Salt Lake, RSL officials have already started courting Latinos. Trino Martinez, RSL's assistant director of marketing, has spent much of his time meeting with Latino community leaders and league presidents, such as Vasquez.
"The leagues can be very territorial, and some don't get along," Martinez said. "But our message to them is we want them to put aside their differences and come and support Real as their team."
All team press releases will be available in English and Spanish, and Martinez is working with the local Latino media, many of which already have soccer as a fixture in their programming.
Radio Unica Utah, which broadcasts on 1600-AM, airs a minimum of three games a week involving South American teams. They are regularly some of the station's highest-rated programs.
"Every single guy in South America and Europe probably grew up playing soccer," said Jose Libardo Rivera, one of the owners of the station. "It is the American dream to be a good basketball or football player, for us, it is soccer."
Some Utahns might be skeptical of the success the MLS will have in Salt Lake City. Other franchises, such as the WNBA's Utah Starzz and several smaller soccer leagues, have come and gone, giving the skeptics some validity in their concerns.
To be successful, RSL's task in selling its sport is two-fold - educate the general population about the MLS and and also woo the more soccer-savvy Latino fans, convincing them that MLS soccer is of high caliber worth their money to see. That second task is becoming a bit easier, as more and more big-name stars commit to the MLS.
A lifelong Boston Red Sox fan who moves to Los Angeles isn't likely to suddenly realign with the Dodgers. The same goes for soccer. During a U.S.-Mexico game in Los Angeles in 1998, the American players were subjected to boos as many fans pulled for Mexico.
One of the most popular teams in the MLS is expected to be expansion team Chivas in Los Angeles, which happens to be named after one of the most successful teams in Mexico.
"We know we have to reach out to them, and try to become 'their' team," said Trey Fitz-Gerald, RSL's senior director of marketing. "We know it's a market that hasn't been embraced by other entertainment options."
One of the easiest ways of doing so is making sure Salt Lake's team is good, which is why landing stars such as Clint Mathis and Eddie Pope is as important to the team's offense and defense as it is to getting fans in the seats. Interestingly, RSL's only Spanish-speaking player is Sergio Flores, who actually grew up in Smithfield, but a lack of Latinos on the team may not be an issue.
"We were going to root for Chivas," Gasca said, continuing to watch the game at the Murray facility. "But now that we have a team, we will root for them. I want to see D.C. here and see Freddy Adu play; he is supposed to be good."
Pastorino doesn't want to see a division in the fan base, stressing its worldliness and pointing out the sport is as good for soccer mothers as it is for someone who grew up playing on the streets of Mexico.
In his mind, the team can be a unifier, a sport all cultures can get behind. And he might be on to something. As Rivera, one of the partners in Radio Unica Utah said, not everyone may understand English, and not everyone may understand Spanish, but all understand "Goooaaallll!"