Back in 2007, Kyle Beckerman was a central figure in the restructuring of Real Salt Lake as the club was built into one of the most consistent winners and accomplished clubs in MLS. The 2009 MLS Cup champions were captained by the rugged midfielder and he would go on to lead RSL to finals in the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League, 2013 U.S. Open Cup and 2013 MLS Cup.
Now set to return for a 12th season with Salt Lake after re-signing with the Claret-and-Cobalt, he is as much a part of the fabric of the RSL locker room as he is a part of the Salt Lake City community that he has made his home.
“I cannot imagine an RSL team next year without Kyle here. Without Kyle with the armband on. Without Kyle leading the charge,” Real Salt Lake Head Coach Mike Petke said. “I think that he is iconic here in Salt Lake. I think that he is one of the best players in the history of this league. There will be a statue here of Kyle one day.”
Now 34 years old, he is a pivotal part of another build. With a youth movement largely taking over at RSL, Beckerman is the steady hand and emotional catalyst that sets the tone for players like Albert Rusnák, Jefferson Savarino, Justen Glad and a slew of others who have yet to celebrate their 25th birthdays.
Being part of that restructuring and seeing from the inside how successful RSL can be after the club was among the best in MLS over the second half of the 2017 season before falling just short of a postseason berth drove Beckerman to return to Rio Tinto Stadium.
“What we built in the second half of the season was so exciting to be a part of. To be able to be here for a couple more years and build with these young guys – they are going to be another year older and a little bit more experienced – there is a lot of upside for this team,” Beckerman said. “To be here and be a part of it is exciting.”
Beckerman likened the late resurgence to the 2007 season when Jason Kreis took the coaching reins early in the season and started restructuring the team with midseason moves that changed the future of the club. With Petke taking over just five games into the 2017 season and the club later adding pieces like Savarino and Marcelo Silva to a burgeoning group of young talent that now includes five players that represented the U.S. at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, there are certainly parallels between the two teams.
The common threads are evident and Beckerman is central to that.
However, the landscape of soccer in Utah has changed. A struggling team looking to build its fanbase while playing in a college football stadium in 2007, RSL is now synonymous with the sport in Utah. In addition to the winning environment and a raucous home venue at Rio Tinto Stadium, the club has moved to the forefront in youth development and now boasts a 78-million-dollar training facility in Herriman that is the league’s gold standard.
Now it’s difficult to imagine walking down a city street without seeing the club’s colors and crest. It’s a point of pride for the captain, who takes successes and failures of the team just as personally as its most die-hard supporters.
“It’s part of people’s everyday life. It’s part of the fabric of this community. It’s grown and grown each year. People really care about soccer,” Beckerman said. “I want us to be happy. I want us to walk down the street after wins and be at the top. It’s just part of the fabric and I come with that with Real Salt Lake as part of the community. It’s not always going to be championships, but how many times did we put smiles on people’s faces this year? If we just continue that, that’s what it’s all about. Championships will come, but it’s about making people happy.”
Beckerman and RSL have been doing that more often than not over the last 11 seasons and he comes back for a 12th season aiming to bring even more joy to the region. Not just for pride in himself. Or his teammates. Or the club.
As much as Kyle Beckerman has become part of the Salt Lake community, Utah has become part of Kyle Beckerman.
“It just feels like home,” he smiled. “It is home.”