SANDY — The rumored international friendly for Real Salt Lake is now official.
The club announced Wednesday that RSL will host Italian power Inter Milan at Rio Tinto Stadium in a friendly on Tuesday, July 19, at 8 p.m.
Inter Milan is just the second European squad to play at Rio Tinto Stadium since the stadium opened in 2008, but the first against Real Salt Lake. Everton played the MLS All-Stars back in 2009, with Everton prevailing in penalties 4-3 after a 1-1 regulation.
“It’s an enormous soccer opportunity in our state. For our club to get a major European club to come to Utah is really cool for our fan base, for our players, just across the board,” said Real Salt Lake general manager Craig Waibel.
He believes a good showing on the field can help validate the club on a larger scale.
Tickets are on sale now for Real Salt Lake season ticket holders, and on June 17 tickets go on sale to the general public at RSL.com or at the Rio Tinto Stadium box office.
Inter Milan has won 18 league titles in its 108-year history, including a run of five straight from 2006 to 2010. Inter finished fourth in Serie A this past season with a 20-11-7 record.
Inter Milan’s roster includes Argentina stars Mauro Icardi and Rodrigo Palacio along with Brazilian Felipe Melo.
“There’s some pretty big names on the other side of the ball, and anytime that happens it’s a great test of how you’ve done and you get to measure yourself,” said Waibel.
The July 19 friendly will be sandwiched between a pair of home matches as RSL hosts New England on Saturday, July 16, and then San Jose on Friday, July 22.
The schedule could get further complicated if RSL wins its next two U.S. Open Cup matches and advances to the quarterfinals. That match would tentatively be scheduled for July 20.
“There’s quite a bit that could be happening that week,” said Waibel. “It could get quite busy.”
RSL’s only other international friendly at Rio Tinto Stadium was against Xolos de Tijuana in 2014. The stadium has hosted plenty of competitive international matches in CONCACAF Champions League action the past six years, including this March against Mexican club Tigres.
From 2010 to 2013, when RSL was consistently in the hunt for the MLS Supporters Shield, one of the unofficial mantras associated with the club became “trophies not friendlies.”
The objective surrounding friendlies appears to be changing.
"The arrival of such a storied club as Inter Milan coming here to face Real Salt Lake is a testament to the vision our owner, Dell Loy Hansen, is developing for the sport in our community," Andy Carroll, RSL’s chief business officer, said in a press release. "As the Herriman complex evolves, we expect the Salt Lake Valley to serve as the home base for numerous world powers during their summer tours of North America; Inter Milan’s visit to Sandy this July is the first step in that process.”
During the four seasons Real Salt Lake called Rice-Eccles Stadium home from 2005 to 2008, it hosted a pair of European teams in friendlies. It lost to Real Madrid 2-0 in front of packed stadium in 2006, and then hosted Everton the following year in 2007, winning that match 2-0.
James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org