Preview | Rapids seeking Rocky Mountain Cup victory in second visit to Real Salt Lake this season


COMMERCE CITY, Colo. —The Colorado Rapids (6-4-3, 21 pts.) hit the road for their second matchup of the season at America First Field against Real Salt Lake (7-2-4 25 pts.). Kickoff for round two of the Rocky Mountain Cup in 2024 is set for Saturday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m. MT (Apple TV— MLS Season Pass, Altitude Sports Radio 950AM).

Having won the first matchup of the season against Salt Lake, Colorado will need a victory to secure the 2024 Rocky Mountain Cup on Saturday. A draw or a loss will result in the July 20 match between these two sides at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park becoming the decider for the Cup.

Since 2005, the Rapids and Real Salt Lake have taken part in one of the most heated rivalries in MLS. The two clubs compete for the Rocky Mountain Cup, a trophy awarded to the winner of the regular-season series, based on total points, by a bipartisan committee of supporters from the two teams.

If the Rocky Mountain Cup has yet to be clinched following the third matchup this season, the tiebreaker will be total goals scored across the series. If all remains even after that, Real Salt Lake will retain the title due to the fact that they are the current holders of the RMC after besting Colorado in the season series last year.

The Rapids are entering this heated rivalry match on a high, having defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 1-0, at DSGP this past Wednesday. Forward Rafael Navarro netted the match’s lone goal from the penalty spot in the late stages of the first half, extending his perfect four-for-four record on kicks from the mark in 2024. With a goal and an eventual red card issued to Vancouver, the Colorado back line paired with goalkeeper Zack Steffen stood strong to close out the match in the second half. Steffen posted two saves to assist in earning his third clean sheet of the season and the 23rd of his MLS career.

Colorado has now scored a goal in eight consecutive matches, which marks the longest stretch since 2022, when the club maintained a ten-match goal-scoring streak. The Rapids have now scored a goal in twelve of the thirteen matches that they have played to start the 2024 MLS regular season.

Real Salt Lake will look to continue their dominant run of form in MLS play over the last nine matches. The club is unbeaten in that span with a 6-0-3 record. Their most recent contest was a 2-0 win at home over the Seattle Sounders following an impressive performance from Diego Luna. The midfielder recorded a goal and an assist in the match as his side posted their fifth clean sheet of the season.

While Salt Lake has seen success as of late, their most recent loss was against this Rapids side at America First Field on March 9. Goals from Navarro and Cole Bassett lifted Colorado to the victory in the first edition of the Rocky Mountain Cup (RMC) in 2024. The victory marked the first official win as Rapids Head Coach for Chris Armas.

As if this matchup didn’t need any more fanfare, these clubs match up against each other as two of the top teams in the Western Conference. Colorado is currently positioned at fourth in the West with 21 points and Salt Lake sits atop the Conference in first with 25 points. A win for Colorado would not only clinch their sixth Rocky Mountain Cup, but it would also bring the club closer to the top spot in the Western Conference and overall MLS Standings.

Saturday’s match includes another layer of rivalry as RSL is led by head coach Pablo Mastroeni, a Rapids club icon. Mastroeni spent 12 seasons as a player in Colorado (2002-13), leading in all-time appearances (225) and games started (217). He captained the side to the 2010 MLS Cup and later coached from 2014-17, guiding them to the 2016 Western Conference Final and a club-record 58 points in the regular season. Additionally, RSL goalkeeper Zac MacMath played for the Rapids from 2015-18, securing 10 clean sheets in 41 appearances. MacMath earned the co-Most Valuable Player title in 2016 and was named the Rapids' Humanitarian of the Year in both 2017 and 2018 for his community work.

Prior to joining the Rapids via trade in January, midfielder Jasper Löffelsend spent two seasons with Real Salt Lake after being drafted by them in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. Löffelsend initially signed a deal with the Real Monarchs, RSL's MLS NEXT Pro side, on Feb. 22, 2022. Just five days later, he signed with the first team, making his league debut on Feb. 27, 2022. He concluded his rookie campaign with five assists, complemented by his first career goal on July 30, 2022, against San Jose. Throughout his tenure at RSL, he delivered seven assists and scored a pair of goals in 51 regular-season appearances. Löffelsend made his Rapids debut on March 9, 2024, on the road in the first leg of the 2024 edition of the Rocky Mountain Cup.