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Ryan Smith, JJ Watt interested in buying Real Salt Lake?

Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, speaks at a press conference announcing Smith’s purchase of the Utah Jazz from Gail Miller.
Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, speaks at a press conference announcing Smith’s purchase of the Utah Jazz from Gail Miller at Vivint SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Smith may be interested in buying Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer.
Melissa Majchrzak

Are Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and Arizona Cardinals All-Pro defensive end JJ Watt considering buying Major League Soccer franchise Real Salt Lake?

What’s going on?

  • On Monday morning, Watt tweeted that he had just finished up a workout at the Jazz’s Zions Bank Basketball Campus in Salt Lake City and thanked Smith for letting him in.
  • In reply to his tweet, someone asked if Watt would buy RSL, which has been for sale since last year.
  • Watt replied “tell them to drop the asking price a bit,” before adding “I want to bring the Royals back,” referring to the National Women’s Soccer League team Utah Royals FC that was in the Beehive State from 2017-2020. Smith replied to Watt, “There you go… well said.”

Why Ryan Smith, JJ Watt might want to buy Real Salt Lake, Utah Royals FC

  • Utah had an NWSL team, Utah Royals FC, from 2017-2020, but it was sold by former owner Dell Loy Hansen and relocated to Kansas City. Hansen also owned RSL of Major League Soccer and decided to sell it last year, too, after allegations of racism and sexism within the RSL organization arose.
  • Watt somewhat regularly tweets about topics that soccer fans in Utah care about, as his wife Kealia played soccer at Alta High School in Sandy and is now on the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL, the top women’s professional soccer league in the United States.
  • Smith had been widely rumored as a frontrunner to buy RSL last year, but that was before he purchased the Jazz for a reported $1.6 billion last fall, and since then, there hasn’t been much noise about him buying RSL.
  • After Hansen couldn’t find a buyer for RSL last year, MLS took over the sale of the franchise in January, with commissioner Don Garber saying he hoped to have it sold by the end of 2021.

How much are RSL, URFC worth?

  • The RSL franchise, along with Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, the Real Monarchs, Real Salt Lake Academy and other entities were reportedly valued last year at approximately $500 million as Hansen was looking to sell the entire portfolio under Utah Soccer LLC.
  • The price tag on an NWSL franchise is not clear, but it would be well, well south of that number.
  • Someone (or a group of people) could purchase an NWSL franchise in Utah independent of the sale of RSL. As part of the terms of the sale of URFC to a group led by Chris and Angie Long of Kansas City (a group that also includes Brittany Matthews, fiancee of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes), new ownership can re-establish the URFC name and franchise in 2023.