Any one driving past Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy can hear the echos of thousands of spectators screaming the Real Salt Lake chant; but among these screaming fans is an increasing number of BYU students.
“It is a really fun sport to watch,” said Matthew Potts, a 21-year-old sophomore from Sacramento, Calif. “Soccer is a more upbeat and fast-paced game than football because the ball is always moving. Plus the players don’t have to wear pads or tights.”
Potts is one of the many students who recently began following the team and attending the games. He said he has always liked soccer, so making the transition to Real Salt Lake was easy.
Many BYU students have been fans of the team since it was officially organized in 2005.
Kurtt Boucher, a 32-year-old BYU graduate from Las Vegas and Nathan Fairbourn, 24-year-old senior from Salt Lake, were some of the first fans of the team. They began attending Real Salt Lake games at University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium before the team moved to Sandy in 2008.
“As soon as we got the Real Salt Lake team I decided to check it out and the first couple of years were terrible, but I loved the atmosphere,” Boucher said. “Now that I am invested in the team I go to every game.”
Fairbourn said he started following Real Salt Lake because of his love for the game.
“I love soccer and Real is the best national sport franchise we have in Utah because they won the national championship,” Fairbourn said.
Whether they are new fans or old, Boucher believes BYU students are following Real Salt Lake because many of them served missions in foreign countries where soccer is part of the culture.
“A lot of return missionaries who have gone to Brazil, Argentina, France or England gain an appreciation for the sport,” Boucher said. “When they return, Real Salt Lake becomes a perfect venue for them to continue their passion for soccer.”
Real Salt Lake plays D.C. United Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7 p.m.