USL Championship club Real Monarchs announced on Thursday that it will open its home stadium to fans during a match against San Diego Loyal SC on July 11–11 days before the start of the NWSL Challenge Cup's semifinals are scheduled to take place there behind closed doors.
Up to 5,300 fans will be permitted to attend the match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, making it the first sporting event in the U.S. with fans permitted in attendance since the coronavirus-induced shutdown. The stadium's capacity is 20,700 fans.
“Our staff has worked diligently to develop a comprehensive plan that ensures that we have a safe, healthy and fun environment for our fans while experiencing a great match at Rio Tinto Stadium,” Real Salt Lake executive Andy Carroll said in a statement. “The health and safety of our players, fans, staff and community has been the top priority throughout our process in seeking creative solutions to safely open our stadium to fans."
"With safe distances between seats and other safety measures in place, we are proud and excited to welcome our fans back as the Monarchs return to the field in defense of their USL Championship title. We are very grateful to the thoughtful and steady leadership that we have in Salt Lake County and throughout Utah state government in providing this opportunity.”
It's unclear what the potential presence of fans in the stadium means for the validity of the NWSL's bubble atmosphere for its return-to-play tournament. Rio Tinto Stadium is slated to host the NWSL Challenge Cup semifinals and finals, with the championship game held on July 26.