In little more than a week, Major League Soccer will take a two-week hiatus so fans across the country can focus exclusively on the World Cup.
Such a break will be a first for MLS, one the players will no doubt enjoy. For Real Salt Lake, though, mentally the break is a long way off.
Over the next nine days, RSL will spend six nights in Washington, D.C., play a total of three games and visit the White House to meet President Barack Obama.
All together, it figures to be a busy yet once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"It's going to be a really fun week," said defender Nat Borchers.
"A lot of the guys are looking forward to this for sure. I think going to see the president will be a boost that we need with all the injuries we have," said Nick Rimando.
Real Salt Lake kicked off the chaotic week on Monday by boarding a Delta flight bound for Baltimore. The team will practice in Washington, D.C., today in preparation for its U.S. Open Cup qualifying match against D.C. United on Wednesday.
On Thursday several of the players will participate in an MLS W.O.R.K.S. community service project near the Washington Monument. Following another full training session Friday, members of last year's championship team will head to the White House to meet the president.
On Saturday, RSL will again take the field against D.C. United in a league game.
"For the coach, it's another week I'm a little concerned our focus may be a little misplaced," said coach Jason Kreis.
He would prefer his team focused exclusively Saturday's league match, but that's just not possible with the busy schedule RSL has created for itself.
Wednesday's game at RFK Stadium is the last Open Cup qualifying match for RSL. A win would officially punch the club's ticket into the 40-team tournament, whereas a loss would once again leave it on the outside looking in.
"The Open Cup hasn't been nice to us over the past years, so we're kind of taking this personal and going in with the mindset of winning," said Rimando.
The six automatic MLS entrants and the two qualifying teams all earn byes into the third round of the competition on June 29. With a top six regular-season finish this year, RSL can avoid similar U.S. Open Cup qualification next season.
On the weekend, Real Salt Lake will look to extend its franchise-record winning streak to six. Last weekend it beat Kansas City for its fifth straight win.
"It's going to be tough playing two games against the same opponent, and obviously we're going to have to beat the humidity out there, but it's going to be fun to meet the president and hang out in D.C.," said Borchers.
In a perfect scenario, RSL will depart the nation's capital with a pair of victories and return home to face MLS-leading Los Angeles on June 9.
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