RSL Youth Academy Foundation: Investing in youth

Pursuing their soccer dreams will soon be a tangible goal for young soccer players throughout Utah.

Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen is doing his part to raise the level of soccer instruction in Utah communities through the construction of six youth regional training facilities.

The RSL Youth Academy Foundation, a non-profit group, will offer soccer lessons for 7- to 14-year-old children at each training facility. It gives an entry point for roughly 160 kids within each age group to develop their soccer skills at an elite level. Through the RSL Discovery Program, they will learn from the same curriculum that RSL uses in teaching players from the MLS team down to the academy teams.

Such instruction and skill development will be done without making it cost prohibitive to their families. Training through the RSL Discovery Program will be free of charge.

“We’re breaking the pay-for-play model to gain first-class instruction,” Hansen says. “It will open the field to a lot of very talented youth players that were not able to get superior training in the past.”

The first of these facilities opened in North Logan in December 2017. Other facilities in Ogden, Taylorsville, Salt Lake City, Orem, Herriman and Washington City are in the planning or construction stages. Two regional training centers will also be built in Arizona, located in Phoenix and Tucson.

The North Logan Regional Training Facility broke ground in November 2016 and cost $6 million to build. It features a regulation-size indoor field, a regulation-size outdoor field and a classroom.

Once completed, these facilities will be available for youth club teams and adult league teams in various surrounding communities to use for games, practices and other events. Rental fees for field usage will help cover the costs of staffing and operating each facility. Field rental fees at the North Logan facility, for example, cost $100 per hour for quarter-field rentals, and $150 per hour for half-field rentals during the winter months.

Their primary purpose and reason for existence, though, is to be a resource for aspiring soccer players to grow in the sport—players who are shut out from other avenues of development because of cost.

It goes against the grain in the rest of the soccer world. Financial commitment can become a burden for some families as their child progresses in the sport. By making these facilities accessible to all families, regardless of economic status, it becomes a game changer that promises to firmly entrench Utah on the soccer map.

“It’s a real simple philosophy,” says Andy Carroll, chief business officer for Real Salt Lake. “We want to develop the best players in the world. Certainly, for us to do that, we have to have the best players in the U.S. At that point, if you look at what the rest of the world does, they start these kids very young. They’re able to identify the best talent and then they put the resources behind that talent to ensure they reach their optimal potential.”