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Why the USWNT playing at Rio Tinto is different this time

The presence of Utah Royals FC lends a different air to this news.

Soccer: International Friendly Women's Soccer-Switzerland at USA Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The United States Women’s National Team is playing at Rio Tinto Stadium in June.

That’s according to a report from Salt Lake Tribune reporter Maddie Lee, who says the team will face China on June 7.

This, on its own, isn’t surprising. In fact, there’s very little that’s really surprising ab out this. They come to Utah every couple years, and that’s to our credit as a community.

But this one feels different. The reasons are fairly easy to pinpoint.

These are our players now

It’s always more exciting to get to see players from your club with their national team playing in their home stadium. Heretofore, we’ve hosted the U.S. women four times, and none of those times did we have that specific connection.

Yes, for some of us — a lot of us, even — these women represent our country, but for all of us here, some of them represent our club. That provides an added excitement and connection.

This opens a broader audience to the Royals

There’s a common theme with people who watch live soccer: “It’s better than I thought” is a common refrain, as is, “Wait, I can watch that here?”

Sure. This won’t be a huge match for people who follow Utah Royals FC already. But for an audience that’s already devoted to Real Salt Lake, and for an audience that hasn’t caught on to soccer yet. It’s easy to forget that there’s still plenty of audience we can develop in Utah, and this is an opportunity for them to see a great team in-person.

A sell-out is within reach

Looking at the schedule for the U.S. over the past six years, there have been shockingly few sell-outs for the greatest women’s team on the planet. That schedule shows nine sellouts in those six years. It’s the sort of thing that will enable us to show the world that, yes, we really do care about women’s soccer.