SANDY — Real Salt Lake was paired with two of its biggest rivals in the group draw of the MLS is Back Tournament on Thursday.
RSL is joined by Kansas City, Colorado and Minnesota in Group D of the MLS is Back Tournament that will take place in Orlando, Florida, July 8-24. Kansas City and Colorado are two of RSL’s biggest rivals in MLS, which should make some very intriguing group play matches despite the absence of fans in the stands.
Real Salt Lake is the top seed in one of the three Western Conference groups by virtue of finishing third in the West in 2019 regular season. The other three teams in its group were determined by a random draw that was held on MLSsoccer.com on Thursday afternoon.
RSL coach Freddy Juarez participated in Thursday’s draw, and it was his selection of the numbered balls that paired RSL up with its three group opponents.
“It’s a tough group. We have rivalries with Colorado and with Sporting and then Minnesota is a very good group. I have some roots there. I played there for a few years, so there’s a lot of respect there,” said Juarez on mlssoccer.com after the draw. “We are a competitive group. We’re a tight-knit group. We’re a group that’s been improving in each of the last four years. We know what we have, we know what we are and we have a chip on our shoulder that we want to go and compete with anyone in MLS. That’s the mindset of the whole group.”
Dates and times for RSL’s three group games at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando will be announced at a later date. The three group games count in the regular season standings.
The geographical rivalry with Colorado dates back to RSL’s inaugural season back in 2005. The Rocky Mountain Cup is awarded to the winner of the season series, which RSL was won 11 of the past 13 seasons.
The rivalry with Kansas City reached its crescendo back in 2013 when the clubs met in the MLS Cup final, with Kansas City prevailing in the epic penalty shootout.
A year ago RSL went 2-0 against Colorado, 2-0 against Kansas City and 0-1-1 against Minnesota.
RSL will train in Utah for the next two weeks before traveling to Orlando to begin preparation for the tournament.
The top two finishers in all six groups advance to the knockout stage round of 16, along with the four top third-place finishers. The tournament stage runs July 25 to Aug. 11.
Afterward, MLS said it expects to resume the regular season in home markets, but no specific details have been released at this time.
Western Conference groups
Seattle, FC Dallas, Vancouver, San Jose.
Real Salt Lake, Kansas City, Colorado, Minnesota.
Los Angeles FC, L.A. Galaxy, Houston, Portland.
Eastern Conference groups
Orlando, Inter Miami, New York City FC, Philadelphia, Chicago, Nashville.
Toronto, New England, Montreal, D.C. United.
Atlanta, Cincinnati, New York Red Bulls, Columbus.