Real Salt Lake's run through the Open Cup tournament, and the fortunate coin flips that have allowed the team to host each of its four tournament matches so far, have helped usher in nearly 50,000 more fans than Rio Tinto might see over the course of a regular year.
But RSL isn't necessarily seeing huge benefits to its bottom line not immediately, anyway.
"The final and semifinal aren't actually financially that lucrative," said RSL president Bill Manning. "Especially the final. It's a U.S. Soccer event, and they take the bulk of it. So there's only a little bit of money to be made."
Rio Tinto saw attendances of 13,763 and 9,644 against the Charleston Battery and the Atlanta Silverbacks, respectively, in home Open Cup matches that were included in the season ticket package. More than 10,200 watched RSL beat the Carolina RailHawks, and a crowd of 14,742, the largest ever for an Open Cup semifinal, was on hand Wednesday night as RSL beat Portland 2-1 to advance to the tournament's final. But if the profit from the five bonus games is relatively minimal now, success on the field will help generate dollars down the road.
"For me, it's more about our ability to win a championship," Manning said. "It's good for our fans to see and it's our best avenue to get back to Champions League, which was lucrative for us. And from that standpoint, I just think it helps our brand."
RSL has seen its season ticket sales increase from 6,300 when the team moved into Rio Tinto Stadium in 2009 to 9,768 this year.
"We've been successful on the field," Manning said. "Whether it's Champions League or Open Cup â¦ I think people want to see a winner."
By making the Open Cup final, RSL has guaranteed itself a bonus, which could be as much as $250,000 for the players with a win. Perhaps more importantly, winning the title would mean significant allocation money from Major League Soccer that would be used on top of the salary cap.
"That's significant because it allows us to keep players on this team that help us win," Manning said. "It allows us to make some moves that we wouldn't be able to do otherwise. It gives us more ability to keep this team intact."
Houston at RSL
P Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
TV • CW30