Near sell-out expected for Utah Royals' first home game

Rio Tinto Stadium, home of Real Salt Lake since its opening in 2008 and now the Utah Royals, holds 20,213 seats, and a near-capacity crowd is expected on Saturday for their first home game against the Chicago Red Stars.

Estimates put ticket sales at 18,500, and the only reason it won't be a full house is multi-platinum artist and songwriter Rachel Platten will be giving a post-game concert, and some seats weren't made available because of the show.

The concert has helped drive the crowd count, but there is no question that the Royals have piqued interest since Dell Loy Hansen, owner of RSL and the USL Real Monarchs, agreed to launch an NWSL team last November. Hansen told the Salt Lake Tribune that he'll lose $2 million just on the Royals' launch, which came two years ahead of planned.

Roughly 5,000 season tickets have been sold for the Royals' inaugural season. To put that in perspective, that's more than the average attendance of eight of the 10 NWSL teams in 2017. The goal, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, is 8,000 season tickets for Year 1.

In one game, the Royals will come close to matching the 21,456 fans that FC Kansas City -- whose impending demise triggered the search for a new team -- drew for the entire 2017 season (12 games). They will also outdraw struggling RSL, which attracted an announced crowd of 16,015 for last Saturday's 2-1 win for its MLS game against Vancouver.

Roster building. The Royals will be led by U.S. national team co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn, who returned from minor knee surgery during the offseason for their first two games, a 1-1 tie at Orlando and 0-0 tie at Houston.

Sauerbrunn was one of five players who came over from KC Kansas City when it folded and the Royals acquired rights to its players. In addition, goalkeeper Abby Smith was picked up from the Boston Breakers when they folded, Kelley O'Hara arrived in a trade with Sky Blue FC, Elise Thorsnes and Gunny Jonsdottir came from teams in Norway, and Rachel Corsie and Diane Matheson had been with Royals head coach Laura Harvey at the Seattle Reign in 2017.

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