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Sammy Linebaugh ReportingIt is the biggest international sporting event to come to Utah since the Winter Olympics -- a men's World Cup qualifying game is going to be played in Salt Lake City. The match is set for June 4th between the U.S. and Costa Rica at Rice Eccles Stadium.
This was little more than a dream until Real Salt Lake came on the scene here in Utah. They got working on a deal with the U.S. Soccer Federation almost immediately, and quite simply, had the superstar lineup on their own roster to make Salt Lake a "real" contender.
He was the man with the Mohawk at the World Cup 2002. Now Clint Mathis tops an all-star roster with Utah ties.
Colin Bodily: "It's gonna be great. They got Clint Mathis. Clint Mathis is crazy."
Not only is the flamboyant midfielder expected to lead Real Salt Lake in the MLS expansion team's inaugural season, but he, along with Real teammates Eddie Pope and forward Jason Kreis, are the backbone of the US Men's national team now coming to Rice Eccles Stadium this summer.
John Poelman: "This is way huge, this is unbelievable, Salt Lake City - this just doesn't happen."
Bill Bosgraaf heads the Utah Soccer Association and says ever since the women's team, with Mia Hamm, played an exhibition game here in 2003, he's been trying to get the men's national team to come for a similar exhibition.
Bill Bosgraaf: "We went and put 20,000 people in the stadium for the women's game. And I think that was the highest draw for the year for them."
A World Cup qualifying match, Bosgraaf says, wasn't even on his radar. Enter Real Salt Lake with all its star power, and Utah scored the deal.
Right now Rice Eccles Fields looks just like it did at the end of the football season. But come May it will be covered with sod. Part of the deal for getting the US national team to come, they wanted to play on grass.
The game will be a double-header with Real Salt Lake playing a regular season game that same day. The US-Costa Rica match-up could well be a make-or break game as the last of five home games for the US men's team in their quest to the 2006 World Cup.
Bill Bosgraff: "Possibly could be the game that puts them over the top and gets them into Germany."
Colin Bodily: "I'm pumped. I'm going to be here."
John Poelman: "I stayed up a number of nights during the World Cup and watched the games ‘til like 3:00 in the friggin morning."
So, now that a World Cup caliber match is coming to town soccer fans say they plan to catch the action up close.