SANDY — Calen Carr, a former MLS forward and current reporter for mlssoccer.com, set out to explore how religion, culture and Real Salt Lake merge in a video posted Thursday.
Soccer's popularity has increased substantially in the United States, thanks to international success and the growth of the MLS, and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in the video having a local team that has been successful has made the city more willing to support the sport.
"The MLS, more than anything, made it accessible, a local team that you could root for, that you could dream about playing for, that you could identify with, that you could feel proud of," he said.
Reyes attributed some of the growth to the diversity of the experiences many young people gain from being missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Often, spending two years in other countries in which soccer is a staple of the culture has caused young Mormons to come back to the state with a love for soccer and a desire to latch onto a squad.
"We have such an international influence because so many young men and women from Utah end up getting sent out across the world," Reyes said.
Though the team has only been around since 2005, enough time has elapsed that some aspiring professional athletes from the area grew up watching the team.
Current RSL midfielder Sebastian Saucedo told Carr that while he was growing up in Park City, Saucedo used to be a big fan of the team, and as a child he even held Freddy Adu's hand walking through the tunnel before a game.
Having gone through the RSL Academy in Arizona, Saucedo could be a start of a generation of local players who grows up and makes his way onto the first team.
"Being able to make my professional debut in front of my family and friends, I can’t ask for anything better," he said.
Brian Dunseth, an RSL broadcaster and former defender for the team, spoke about his header goal on April 16, 2005, which served as the team's first home goal after its inception.
He said in the video that his celebration, taking the corner flag and sticking it back into the ground, was partially a tribute to the history of the state and its Mormon culture.
Dunseth related the celebration to the pioneers who staked a claim to the land, with Real Salt Lake now laying its claim to the city and soccer culture in Utah.1 comment on this story
"RSL’s here; this is our place," he said.
Carr set out to find fans from both the LDS Church and groups who are adamantly against it. He found the city to be merging, and Dunseth told Carr the culture of the two sides is coming together to create a team and an atmosphere that is as inclusive as any team in the country.
"What I’ve found was also a group of people that come together to support a club that transcends religion, a club that makes everybody feel welcome and that’s a family of its own," Carr said.