Real Salt Lake was established in Salt Lake City in 2004. The team became Major League Soccer's 12th franchise and began playing in the league in 2005. The club's main rivals are the Colorado Rapids and the two sides contest the Rocky Mountain Cup on an annual basis. The use of 'Real' in the team's name is purely for stylistic reasons and was inspired by Spanish football teams like Real Madrid, Real Betis and Real Sociedad.
In September 2006, Real Salt Lake signed a deal with Spanish giants Real Madrid, which included the creation of a multi-million dollar youth academy in Salt Lake City, regular friendly matches between the two sides and occasional use of Real Madrid's training facilities in Spain. The youth academy was the first true soccer youth academy in Major League Soccer. The current partnership agreement between Real Salt Lake and Real Madrid expires in 2016.
Real Salt Lake took very little time in establishing themselves as a major force in MLS. In December 2006 they signed Freddy Adu, who was one of the hottest prospects in world football at that time. In 2009, the club achieved its greatest success to date, winning the MLS Cup, defeating Los Angeles Galaxy in the final. In 2011, Real Salt Lake reached the final of the CONCACAF Champions League. Although they would lose the match, they became the first MLS team to reach the final of the competition in the "Champions League" era.
Some of the major players to represent the club in its short history to date include Jason Kreis, Freddy Adu, Eddie Pope, Álvaro Saborío and Fabián Espíndola.
The team's home matches are contested at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The stadium is often called The RioT and opened in 2008. It currently holds a maximum capacity of 20,213.