SAFFORD — Back in 2018, local coaches decided to start up a U19 RSL (Real Salt Lake) club team and found some success.

Now club soccer has expanded from one to six teams for 2019, and it’s not too late for round two of placement tryouts.

RSL is a Major League Soccer team out of Salt Lake City that makes it its mission to support club teams in hopes of fostering and acquiring future talent. It’s a clear path to becoming a professional soccer player.

Is the path easy? No. But it has its perks.

RSL is spread across Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Texas. Forty thousand players in Arizona alone compete in club soccer, half falling under the umbrella of RSL. One perk is that the club likes to hunt for talent in small towns and communities.

It also has a soccer academy located in Salt Lake City. Gila Valley RSL club soccer director Warren Williams said, “If a (young) player is really good, then they go train at the academy, and they’re kind of basing this off the European-style clubs. They actually go and live there in dorms and train.”

As far as the Gila Valley presence, all games are played on assigned RSL fields in Tucson; however, there are designated, lighted practice fields here in the Valley. If players stand out, they get to play in the national league, which then can propel them into the district academies. Once in the academy, it’s a competitive chance to go pro.

“Right now, they’ve got two kids I know of out of Tucson that are going to the academy in Salt Lake City,” Williams said.

2019 will have a boys teams for U12, U15 and U17, along with girls teams for U12, U15 and U19. A U19 boys team is a possibility. One can play club soccer at the same time as any other sport except school soccer.

“During the high school season, our high school-age kids we stop playing until the season’s over, so we play two halves,” Williams said.

Williams described the pricing as “affordable” compared to other options.

As of right now, Gila Valley club teams will play just in Tucson, but there are opportunities to play in El Paso, Texas, Las Cruces and Albuquerque, N.M., and more.

“The goal is, ultimately, to get kids into college showcase tournaments in Phoenix, Vegas and even California,” Williams said. “We want to create opportunities for them to play college soccer. RSL has the pathway. As long as you can play at the next level, they’ll keep advancing you.”

Middle-schoolers are welcome to participate in practices to get exposure and training.

Coaching is another aspect that can get pricey, but the organization funds people getting certified for club coaching. Yet another perk is that RSL pays for the certification and licensing testing and fees.

The next tryout opportunity is Saturday, July 13, from 9 a.m. to noon, at Eastern Arizona College’s Mickelson Stadium.

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