2024 RSL Unified Signing Day – Presented By Mountainland Supply

May 9, 2024 at 2:11PM

Members of the entire Real Salt Lake organization assembled on Monday at America First Field to welcome five exciting new signings to the 2024 RSL Unified roster, hosting a contract signing and press conference for the new additions before a full multimedia day was held for the roster.

Unified Soccer is an inclusive sports program that unites Special Olympics athletes with partners as teammates for training and games, coming together to form a team that trains, travels and plays – just like the Real Salt Lake first team.

Fans can catch the RSL Unified squad in action next on Saturday, May 18, when it challenges rival Colorado Rapids Unified for the coveted Rocky Mountain Cup at America First Field, with kickoff following the conclusion of that evening’s RSL vs. Colorado Rapids MLS contest.

“We’ve practiced hard, we’re gonna play hard. Last year we lost the Cup to Colorado so this game is a big deal, it’s a real rivalry … they better remember to bring it back to us so we can put it on our shelves and show it off,” said RSL Unified Head Coach Jenna Holland. “They’re just excited to show everybody what they have and what they’ve worked hard for.”

Festivities kicked off as RSL Unified’s newest crop of wonderkids – Brayden Cheeney, Nichael London, John Murray, Benjamin Veliz, and Ryan Walker – were welcomed one-by-one to sign new deals with Real Salt Lake General Manager Kurt Schmid and Assistant General Manager Tony Beltran. Following the contract signing, the players were made available for a press conference, fielding questions from local media and discussing goals for the upcoming journey.

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“It feels good, man, I’m happy to be a part of this team for the first time. It was so good to sign my first contract for the team,“ said Walker, before fellow signee Murray set the tone for the team’s aspirations, “My goal is to create good memories for the team, and maybe we’ll win the trophy against Colorado!”

Following media availability, athletes filed into the RSL locker room for a jersey reveal, smiles beaming across their faces as they saw the Claret-and-Cobalt kits with their names across the back and lockers arranged exactly like a first-teamer. Players got a glimpse at their new threads, team gear and accessories while meeting with RSL goalkeepers Zac MacMath and Gavin Beavers alongside Utah Royals Captain Paige Monahan about their upcoming matches and strategies out on the pitch.

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“When you have this shield on your chest, remember who we’re playing for, who you are and what we represent. Not just Real Salt Lake but Special Olympics Utah and Utah itself,” said Holland as the team came together.

Fully suited up in their fresh kits, the RSL Unified roster entered the media stage for a photoshoot, taken through the process by RSL’s team of photographers before it was capped off with each player’s best goal celebration pose. Then, a rare moment of privacy as the RSL Unified squad came together for a team talk in the Utah Royals FC locker room.

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Team Captain Cole Welch stepped in front of the group for a speech: “Look around at all the new players and all the new connections you’ve made. We’ve not been together long but think back to when we absolutely killed it in Chicago … We can play the soccer we want to play, and we can beat anyone we want to beat.”

“Look back and see how hard we’ve worked, because we do not train easy – we train hard so we can win easy!”

If one takeaway from the day is clear, this team is for real. They’ve been training hard for this moment and they’re jumping at the chance to show the soccer fans of Utah what they can do.

“We’re making sure that we get the best athletes from across the state of Utah to have the opportunity to compete here … Players have the full professional experience – we think of this team as our fourth professional team with Real Salt Lake, Real Monarchs and Utah Royals FC,” said RSL Director of Community and Player Engagement Kyle Schroeder.

“Nobody is handing them something – they’re having to earn every opportunity, goal and assist, they’re getting fouled, they’re being defended like they would be in the World Cup.”

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