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'Real' soccer details coming

Checketts may be working on deal with Madrid team

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 31 2004 12:00 a.m. MDT

It's been over a month since Salt Lake City was awarded an MLS expansion franchise. At the time, Dave Checketts and his ownership group said details such as team name, team colors, coach and general manager would all be announced by mid-August.
Those details may be a few weeks late, but the team says it expects to begin making some big announcements this week.
There's a chance the biggest and most noteworthy announcement of them all will have an international flavor.
Last month as the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Economic Development Corp. of Utah, Checketts discussed potential names for the expansion team such as Salt Lake Glory, Salt Lake Alliance, Salt Lake Highlanders and Real Salt Lake.
Based on audience feedback, no one cared that "real" meant royalty in Spanish, they didn't understand the context of why a team would be Real Salt Lake (pronounced Ree-AL). Since Real Salt Lake was mentioned as a possibility by Checketts, message boards on nationwide soccer websites have criticized the name as a cheap rip-off of the storied Spanish soccer team.
Despite that, speculation is that representatives from Salt Lake's MLS team are leaning toward Real Salt Lake — so much so that an official announcement may come this week.
Since that EDCO meeting, Checketts and his brother, Dan, who is also involved with the franchise, spent a week in Europe working on business relations. Checketts declared on a local sports radio station recently that fans can expect an "international flavor" when the team name is announced.
Speculation is that Checketts reached an agreement with European soccer power Real Madrid to form a type of affiliation. Real Madrid's roster includes international heroes such as David Beckham, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane. No other MLS team has a working relationship with a European club.
What does this mean for Salt Lake City's team if the rumors are true.
Imagine an expansion basketball team opening in Italy, in cooperation with the Los Angeles Lakers. Then imagine the Lakers sending their 18- and 19-year-old draft picks overseas to sharpen their skills during the summer league. Those few months turn into a few years as the teenagers continue honing their skills on a daily basis instead of sitting on the bench in the NBA.
The NBA example isn't logical, but in soccer it's more than logical. It's common for European clubs to loan players to lower division clubs to gain experience. Many people don't realize that the contract of American soccer sensation Landon Donovan is owned by German club Bayern Leverkusen. Knowing Donovan wasn't good enough to play for Leverkusen when they signed him as a teenager, they loaned him to the San Jose Earthquakes of the MLS instead of a lower-division team in Germany. He's since won two MVP awards in the MLS, and will likely be recalled to Germany on Jan. 1, 2005.
If rumors about a Salt Lake-Madrid relationship pan out, a similar, exclusive relationship would exist between the teams.
While the European soccer season runs from late August to early May, the MLS season runs from April to October. That's over three months for Madrid to send players to Salt Lake to play during the summer.
Fans will just have to wait for official confirmation of Real Salt Lake, and then hope the team hires a quality general manager and coach to get the ball rolling properly.

MLS NOTES: Chris Keeney was recently hired to lead Salt Lake City's ticket sales team. Keeney previously was the director of sales with D.C. United . . . The internet website address www.realsaltlake.
com has been reserved. Even though the domain name could have been purchased by someone outside of the organization, none of the other options previously discussed by Salt Lake's MLS representatives has been.


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com

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