SANDY — Utah is getting a second Major League Soccer team.
At least, temporarily.
The Vancouver Whitecaps announced they will open the 2021 MLS season at Real Salt Lake's home stadium on Wednesday, sharing spaces with Real Salt Lake due to travel restrictions in place between the United States and Canada related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Whitecaps will host Cascadia rivals Portland on Sunday, April 18 in the season opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. MT.
"We are looking forward to kicking off the 2021 MLS season against two of our rivals, Portland and Toronto," said Axel Schuster, Whitecaps CEO and sporting director, in a statement. "We will absolutely miss seeing and hearing our fans at BC Place to start the season.
"Rest assured, our main objective is to play as many of our home games in Vancouver as possible. We're working very closely with the league and public health officials and look forward to a time when our fans can safely attend matches at BC Place once again."
Currently only two games are scheduled on the Whitecaps' schedule, with MLS announcing teams' home openers Wednesday in a standalone announcement. The Whitecaps are also scheduled to face Toronto FC on Saturday, April 24 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, where Toronto has temporarily relocated. MLS's third Canadian side CF Montreal will train in Fort Lauderdale and play home games at Inter Miami CF Stadium.
The club will train at America First Field in Sandy, which was RSL's primary training site before launching the $80 million RSL academy in Herriman that also hosts the second-division Real Monarchs.
Under league COVID-19 protocols, the Whitecaps will use locker room space initially designed for the now-vacated Utah Royals FC, and will host their own parking area and entrance to the stadium separate from RSL.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has caused everyone around the world to open their arms to their neighbors in a time of need. As such, we are proud to welcome Vancouver Whitecaps FC to Utah for the start of the 2021 season," Real Salt Lake interim president John Kimball said in a statement. "We are fortunate to have the facilities and infrastructure in place to successfully host the club and look forward to the opportunity to ensure that the Whitecaps can feel at home in our city and our stadium.
"Utah is the State of sport and this is another in a long list of great examples of how our community is such a great place for athletes — even when they are our direct competitors — to put their feats on display. It is a privilege that another Major League Soccer team can call Salt Lake City home, even if only temporarily and we are prepared to host Whitecaps FC as long as is necessary."
RSL is scheduled to kick off the season Saturday, April 23 at Minnesota United FC. The club then hosts the home opener Saturday, May 1 against rival Sporting Kansas City.