Q&A: Talking With RSL GM Garth Lagerwey — Part 1

An inside perspective from the Real Salt Lake general manager
by Wes Brown   |   Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kingdom of Salt - column on Real Salt Lake (RSL) & the Salt Lake City Utah soccer scene

Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey has been the most vocal within the club about the franchise’s intent towards furthering player development and the expansion of the RSL brand beyond MLS.

His experience in all aspects of the club makes him a prime target to field questions about RSL’s operations; from player acquisitions and signings to bigger picture things like youth development, the academy system, and what the goal is for the club in the coming years.

It’s no secret that RSL has been looking to get into other markets. When the MLS/USL partnership kicked off in 2013, RSL was one of the first to express interest in expanding its footprint outside of Utah by forming its own USL PRO team. Rumors about club ownership having an interest in San Diego emerged not long after, and that inspired many questions from fans and media alike.

At the club’s media luncheon on March 4, I asked Lagerwey a few questions about this topic. The open format of the conversation allowed other journalists to pitch in as well. The following is the 1st of a 2 part series where RSL’s GM expounds at length about some of the vision, the potential challenges, and the existing structure of the club’s mid- and long-term goals in player development.

Regarding USL PRO, I know Real Salt Lake has been talking about 2016 as the year to start their own team. The league has set a compliance date of 2015 for affiliation or starting your own team. How is the club getting around this to 2016 to establish that team? Will there be an assumed affiliation for 2015?

Garth Lagerwey (GL):  I think the most likely outcome is some kind of short-term affiliation in 2015 followed by a more permanent arrangement for 2016. We’re investigating a situation in San Diego potentially, in terms of the long-term solution, which would be ready in 2016 at the earliest. I shouldn’t say “the earliest”, but I think it’s optimistic it will happen before then. But we would have to work on a 1-year option with an affiliation of some kind in 2015. We haven’t really even started that yet, just out of the sense of… I mean, as evidenced by the guys that we have signed (a minor leaguer every year)[Paulo Araujo, Jonny Steele, Yordany Alvarez, Luke Mulholland], we have great relationships with every minor league team and we’ve had a lot of success loaning different guys to different teams. I don’t even know if we would have an affiliation. We might just pursue individual loans to different teams for a year.

And that would be OK with the league to meet compliance?

GL:  They might require us to send 3 or 4 guys somewhere, but… there’s a new CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement] coming up. It’s out at the end of this year. One of the things is that I don’t know what the roster size is going to be. So part of the league’s compliance or non-compliance is going to come down to what is the roster size. Is it going to be the same? Is it going to be smaller? If it were smaller at the MLS level, you’d have a full contingent of players to go to the minors. Will it be bigger to include both your minor and your major? So it’d be like baseball where you have a 40-man roster and you manage all those guys. It’s impossible to predict which way it goes. So the compliance thing I think will be tied to whatever [the league] lands on in terms of [the MLS Player’s Union].

What’s the specific draw to San Diego for a USL PRO team?

GL:  It’s a great market in terms of identifying players. It’s a market that MLS could potentially move into at some point. So there’s a lot of attraction there in player development type stuff. So that’s the tactical answer.

Part 2 will look at RSL’s academy in particular, but will also bleed into the potential for a USL PDL squad. How Lagerwey and the club envision all of these components throughout the pyramid meshing together at the various levels is very interesting, and it’ll provide a bit more clarity to the long-murky developmental structure.

NEXT UP: March 15 – Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif. 10:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live, ABC4.


Harrisburg Area CC
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Real Salt Lake
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1899 Hoffenheim
USSF Licensed youth coach. Founder and manager of Scalliwags United. On-field utility man. Tactics geek. Book worm. Member of the United Church of Kreis with a t-shirt to prove it. Keystone native, future Beehive resident. Proud husband and father of two.