SANDY — Real Salt Lake's total commitment to the CONCACAF Champions League has forever changed the way MLS teams view the tournament.
No longer will teams view the competition as a bother, but rather a unique opportunity to stamp its name on the consciousness of the American soccer public.
It has some financial perks as well.
Even though there's no prize money awarded for winning the CONCACAF Champions League, the total prize money in the FIFA Club World Cup is roughly $17 million.
Even if RSL doesn't claim a piece of that purse, RSL president Bill Manning said the club's benefitted financially from participating in the Champions League.
Tonight's finale alone is a huge boost to the team's bottom line. With a sellout crowd of more than 20,000 expected at Rio Tinto Stadium and an average ticket price of around $28 according to Manning, the gate receipts alone will net the team over half a million dollars.
"This will be our largest gate in our history," said Manning.
Tonight's Monterrey game isn't part of the team's season-ticket package, while RSL's five previous Champions League home games — three in 2010 and two in 2011 — were all part of the team's season ticket packages.
The interest in the competition from the fans' perspective got off to a slow start with mediocre attendance in the first two games against Panama's Arabe Unido (10,626) and Toronto FC (11,579). In RSL's group finale against Cruz Azul last October, more than 20,463 poured into the stadium in what turned out to be a thrilling match.
Over 15,405 were on hand last month to see RSL beat Columbus in the quarterfinals, and then 16,888 were at Rio Tinto Stadium for the semifinals against Saprissa.
Combined with tonight's attendance, nearly 100,000 fans will have watched RSL's march through the Champions League and Manning said collectively it's all been profitable.
That includes the team shelling out roughly $200,000 for charter flights to Costa Rica and Mexico this month too.
Ironically enough, the one-way charter to Costa Rica was more expensive than the roundtrip charter to Mexico. The Costa Rica charter fell on the same week as the NCAA Final Four, and that along with the Super Bowl are the two most expensive times of the year to charter flights.
"I think it was a competitive advantage for us." said Manning. "At first it was tough to digest the number, but I think at the end of the day Dave (Checketts) and Dell Loy (Hansen) figured it was that important to the club we need to support the administration and support coaching and do this. And now we're in a position where it's all netted out to be positive."
The potential financial benefit of winning the Champions League and participating in the FIFA Club World Cup could be massive, but Manning isn't allowing himself to get excited about that just yet.
"We haven't talked about the impact and what it will mean because we've focused so much on CONACAF and winning this competition," he said.
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