In 2015 Real Salt Lake unveiled its first professional soccer affiliation when it introduced Real Monarchs SLC into the United Soccer League with the hopes of the team developing players for the MLS club and bringing a division two championship to a rapidly growing soccer state. Now in 2017, the team has taken the first steps in reaching that goal by officially clinching its first-ever playoff berth.
By reaching the playoffs for the first time in its three-year history, it becomes the first team in the USL to do so in 2017 while solidifying its growing role in the Real Salt Lake organization and making its presence known to the other 29 teams in the league.
The route to the playoffs for the Monarchs has been one of almost complete control over the rest of the USL this season, going 17-4-4 before clinching the berth last Saturday. With seven games to play in the regular season the team has also set itself up for a chance at the all-time points record as well as the total wins record.
After a retool of its roster in the offseason, the Monarchs set sights on silverware and nothing less would suffice. By making the playoffs for the first time the team has checked its first box on the list of to-do’s in chasing down the USL Regular Season Championship, given to the highest points finisher and the USL Cup Championship, set to be played in November.
If the team continues to hold onto the number one seed overall over the next seven matches, it will be faced with the opportunity to host four possible playoffs matches at Rio Tinto Stadium as well as the season’s culmination coming in the form of the USL Cup Final to crown a champion.
The way the USL structures the playoff formatting, higher seeds are always in favor and are set on the front foot from the outset of the playoffs and as it stands, the Monarchs remain in the driver’s seat heading towards the end of the year and are currently favorites to claim the regular season championship.
The goal of making the playoffs did not come easily as the team clinched in atypical fashion when the Oklahoma City Energy lost to Swope Park Rangers to push the Monarchs over the line on the same evening. After losing to Western Conference and league-leading challenger San Antonio FC a bitter taste was left in the mouth of the team and Head Coach Mark Briggs after what he considered to be a lackluster performance in the first home loss of the season.
“I can’t really be too pleased with making it into the playoffs after that,” Briggs said after the loss to San Antonio. “But, it is great that we have reached the playoffs. Credit to the team, credit to the organization for making it to the playoffs for the first time.”
The team now moves into a new phase of growth where success has been abound in 2017, beginning with a road contest at Portland Timbers 2 where the Monarchs won its first match of the year. The Monarchs are no stranger to having success on the road having earned a 6-3-3 record away from Rio Tinto Stadium, giving home sides a stiffer test than most teams in the USL.
With playoff seeding looming and a hunger for greater success driving, the Monarchs will now look to maintain the top spot in the league to bring the first USL Regular Season Championship to the club in the hopes of the ultimate prize, a USL Cup Championship.