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Soccer in Utah: Short-lived Utah Golden Spikers struggle in single 1976 season, fold

Deseret News, May 3, 1976

In 1976, Salt Lake City had a professional soccer team: the Utah Golden Spikers, a member of the American Soccer League.

This might come as somewhat of a surprise. They weren't particularly well-known or, indeed, well-regarded, and there was more than a little bit of controversy in which they became embroiled.

It started early: The Golden Spikers first were the subject of a complaint by a local racing promoter, Ferrol Papworth, who claimed he had exclusive rights to the grounds in which the team was performing renovations in preparation of match action. Those grounds? The Utah State Fairpark grounds.

The similarities with Real Salt Lake don't end there. Their first match took place at Rice Stadium — the University of Utah stadium that was demolished to make way for Rice-Eccles Stadium, where RSL's first matches took place.

That first match — a 1-0 loss to Los Angeles Skyhawks — drew a crowd of more than 8,000. Lee Benson, Deseret News sports writer, wrote at the time:

Playing on AstroTurf certainly speeded things up, favoring the better-conditioned Skyhawks. It was like playing on a freeway, and high and quick bounces sent the ball scooting off the pitch and away from intended receivers. [...] several Utah and LA forwards ... (planted) the ball into Davis County and Emigration Canyon when the intent was a teammate just across the field.

It all went along reasonably well until the summer of 1976 after Tim Kotronakis, Golden Spikers president and general manager, received a four-year suspension for an alleged assault on ASL president Nick Sclavounos. This was surely not helped by the club owing something in the range of $13,500 to the league.

It didn't take long from there for it all to collapse. But for one year, they existed, and for a brief period after that, another team almost existed — the Utah Pioneers. But that's another story.

Information compiled via newspaper articles from 1976, largely from the Deseret News.