For decades, fans of American football have had a tradition of pregame partying: tailgating. Every game day, August through November, in the VA parking lot near the University of Utah, cliques of hard-core Ute fans cook, eat and freeze their buns off while gripping koozie-wrapped light beer augmented by the occasional swig from a flask.

But down in Sandy, tailgating has grown up around a different kind of football, not the minor American game, but the most popular game in the world known (only in the U.S.) as soccer. Fans of Utah’s Real Salt Lake, party hard and pre-game in a lot five minutes away from the RioT (Rio Tinto Stadium’s nickname).

Major League Soccer’s season runs March through October—twice as long as NCAA football. Real play 18 home games to the Utes’ seven.

Real Salt Lake Tailgating
PHOTO by McKenzie Burkart

That means more parties. Over the course of 18 games, the enthusiasm and atmosphere at RSL tailgating builds—when the team is winning (as they have been)—to a happy frenzy. Supporters of The Claret and Cobalt welcome everyone ready to cheer on their team—it’s one big family. Check out pancake breakfasts for all at early games and local home brew tastings later in the day. Walk stall-to-stall for impromptu games of corn hole.

The best part comes at the apex of the whole bonanza—the RSL band marches through the lot and a scrum of supporters march along to cheers with horns, drums, and red and blue smoke grenades. Everyone joins the defining rally, the tailgate’s last hurrah before the march to the gates of the RioT, where they’ll cheer their eleven to victory.

The cutthroat MLS Western Conference only has seven points separating second and seventh place. In this tight spread, RSL has had a great year. TRAX (an amazing convenience for the inebriated) to the pre-game extravaganza of Utah’s other football. Tailgate and cheer RSL to victory.

For their full game schedule, go to

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