Can RSL ownership learn from Kroenke Sports & Entertainment?

Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake
Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake / Chris Gardner/GettyImages
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Real Salt Lake’s offseason is anything but idle. Following their early US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League exits and their narrow defeat to Austin FC in the Western Conference First Round, preparations for next season were underway.

The club traded academy product and first-team regular Aaron Herrera to CF Montréal, released the 2023 schedule, and acquired five players from the MLS SuperDraft. Also, in slightly unrelated news, Pablo Ruiz had a baby. Congrats!

On January 5th, prior to the 2023 season start, RSL will reach a significant milestone – the one year anniversary of David Blitzer and Ryan Smith’s Smith Entertainment Group (SEG) becoming majority shareholders of the club. The American entrepreneurs claim the majority of shares of several sports teams.

Blitzer owns third tier Spanish soccer side AD Alcorcón, English Premier League’s Crystal Palace FC, and NHL’s New Jersey Devils whereas Ryan Smith owns the NBA’s Utah Jazz. They are one of two American ownership groups in Major League Soccer that own majority shares to at least four professional sports teams (the other ownership group being Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, or KSE).

David Blitzer
New Jersey Devils Announce New Ownership / Andy Marlin/GettyImages

KSE’s portfolio includes NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, English Premier League’s Arsenal FC, and the MLS side Colorado Rapids. In recent years, KSE teams experienced success concurrently. For instance, in 2022, the Rams won the Super Bowl and the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup months later. In 2020, Arsenal won two trophies in the same month.

KSE ownership seemingly instills a winning culture, and could be a precedent to follow.

But if one team in an ownership group is successful, does that indicate impending success for another team? Possibly. Has that been the case for Blitzer and Smith-owned teams, however?

In short, no.

In fact, the majority of teams in Blitzer’s and Smith’s portfolio have consistently underperformed.

Teams under the majority ownership of Blitzer and Smith have never won a championship. The Devils, Jazz, and Rapids have a combined total of four seasons where they successfully qualified for the playoffs (the Devils, owned by Blitzer since the 2013/14 season, have featured once in the post season in nine seasons). AD Alcorcón was relegated to the Spanish third tier and Crystal Palace have never finished higher than 11th in the Premier League during Blitzer’s six seasons.

Ryan Smith
Ryan Smith at the Los Angeles Clippers v Utah Jazz game / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

So what does this mean for RSL? Until a team under Blitzer and Smith’s ownership wins a championship, RSL will likely intermittently qualify for the playoffs in the forthcoming seasons. RSL could be the team to win the ownership’s first trophy, but defeating Western Conference rivals Austin FC, Nashville SC and reigning MLS Cup champions LAFC would pose a challenge. It’s up to the ownership to instil that winning formula and RSL can be the team to kickstart the success.

David Blitzer and Ryan Smith, cheers to one year being in charge. Let’s bring home a championship to RSL!

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