Utah might not be the first place that you think of when it comes to pro sports. It is actually the 11th-least populated state in the country, so the likelihood of there being many championship teams around the place seems pretty slim….
But that doesn’t mean that Utah doesn’t love its sports. There are some major league pro sports teams to root for – and there are plenty more minor league and college teams representing at the top level.
If you want to find the best place to bet on the local teams, you should go to www.sportsbettingsites.com to discover the best online sportsbooks. But if you want to find out more about Utah’s teams – and the prospect of any more appearing in the future – read on.
All That Jazz
The Utah Jazz is probably the best well known team in the state. Although the Jazz is a regular in the postseason, it has never been able to win an NBA championship. The closest it came to that honor was during the Karl Malone/John Stockton era of the 1990s.
Those two players were the undoubted stars of a team that actually reached the finals two years running. Unfortunately for the Jazz, it was at a time when the one and only Michael Jordan ruled basketball. So Utah’s finest never got to size up for rings.
After a less successful period, the Jazz has reached the playoffs in each of the last six seasons, winning the Northwest Division for the last two. So maybe there will be some new stars that can go even further than the 90s legends.
Soccer Leads the Way
The Jazz may grab most of the headlines – especially out of state – but it is the local soccer team that can boast to be the one and only national championship winners from these parts. Real Salt Lake won the MLS Cup in 2009 and has also represented Major League Soccer on a continental level in the CONCACAF Champions League on a number of occasions.
After a few years of not making it to the postseason, RSL surprised everyone by getting to the Conference Finals in 2023 and is pushing for the postseason once again this year. There are actually reserve and women’s teams associated with Real Salt Lake as well, competing at the highest levels possible.
As with other states that don’t have the full complement of major league pro sports franchises, Utah fans get their kicks by following some of the top colleges in various NCAA sports. Football is probably the most popular, with seven schools playing at Division I level.
Of those seven Division I schools, three compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the elite level of college football in the country. Best known is Brigham Young, an independent, while Utah is a member of the prestigious Pac-12 Conference and Utah State competes in the Mountain West Conference.
There have been no NCAA football titles celebrated in the state, but Utah won the co-ed skiing national championship this year and Utah State has excelled in men’s and women’s cross country in recent years.
Minor League Sports
It may be just basketball and soccer that are played at a major league level in Utah, but there are other well supported teams throughout the state. We mentioned the reserve team of RSL – the Real Monarchs – who play in MLS Next Pro. But there is also a Triple-A baseball team in Salt Lake too. That’s the highest level of minor league baseball in the country.
The Salt Lake City Bees is affiliated with the Los Angeles Angels and play in the Pacific Coast League in the ballpark with the largest capacity. Success has been rare though and there have been no titles won by the Bees up until this point.
Hockey is also big in Utah, with West Valley City home to the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies team. The Grizzlies have been affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks and the Calgary Flames for periods of their history but are now aligned with the Colorado Avalanche – their closest geographical NHL club.
The Future of Sports in the Beehive State
Utah very successfully hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002 and is a regular host of one-off events in other sports. But will there ever be another major league pro sports team in the state? There do seem to be influential people in the world of sports hoping that there will be more representation at the highest level of basketball, hockey or baseball.
Rugby is one of the growing sports in Utah – and has a rich history at Brigham Young. But, even with the emergence of Major League Rugby in recent years, this is not a sport that will make the evening round-ups.
The owner of the Utah Jazz does have plans to bring a third major league team to the state though. There are no definitive plans at his stage, but the hope is that either major league baseball or hockey will be played in Salt Lake City in the next five to ten years. Football seems out of the question, given the exorbitant costs of hosting an expansion franchise.
Although baseball would seem to be a popular move, it is hockey that probably seems the most likely. The game is getting increasingly popular out west, with the Vegas Golden Knights and the Seattle Kraken joining the NHL in recent years. Although Utah has not traditionally been a hockey town, it can be argued that San Jose or even Los Angeles, were hardly hotbeds either before their franchises were awarded.
The main factor that Utah has going against it, as far as bringing another major league pro sports franchise to the state goes, is the relatively small media market. Pro league owners want to see how money can be made with expansion teams and Salt Lake City, or Utah as a whole, would need a watertight plan to convince the NHL or those in charge at MLB.