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Real Salt Lake Signs First-Round 2024 Draft Pick Matthew Bell

February 19, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Real Salt Lake News Release

HERRIMAN, Utah - Real Salt Lake today announced the signing of first-round 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick M/F Matthew Bell, selected 16th overall from Marshall University. Bell and fellow first-rounder DF Kevin Bonilla (Univ. of Portland) were MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalists last year, receiving distinction in college soccer's Heisman Trophy equivalents. Bell is signed with a series of Club options through the 2027 Major League Soccer season.

Bell, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, completed his sophomore season at Marshall University last year, earning SunBelt Conference Player of the Year and SBC Offensive Player of the Year honors, with Hermann Trophy watch list accolades while powering the Thundering Herd to with a single-season program record of 10 goals / 12 assists, just the second player in program history to register multiple 10-goal campaigns.

"I think the style of play that RSL plays is how I would love to play - I'm so excited to continue down this path," said Bell, the latest in a long line of Jamaican internationals to call Utah home. "I can't wait to get started and hopefully we'll build an everlasting relationship. And I hope to be at the Club for many, many years and hopefully I can win some championships."

"I've enjoyed the preseason so far and I look forward to learning and growing each and every day, trying to fit the style of play and show the coaches how to best use me. I think that's what I want for my career as well. I'm excited to see what it brings and I'm just really excited. I don't even know what to say because it's such a big moment for me in my life. It's just really exciting at the moment and I'm just so so eager to play.

"I think I'm the type of player who can come in and impact right away, but I also know that if the coaching staff feels I need to be in the second team, I'm open to that too. I'm open to learning and growing as a player because this is just the start of my career. I'm also very ambitious, and I'm very goal oriented, and I think I could potentially impact the first team, and hopefully get a lot of minutes this year, and just grow as a player and help the Club to win trophies."

Real Salt Lake kicks off the Club's 20th MLS season this Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, when Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni leads his team to South Florida, where RSL faces Inter Miami CF at DRV PNK Stadium. Kickoff is at 6:00 p.m. MT, with the game broadcast worldwide via Apple TV+ / MLS Season Pass, as RSL looks to extend its MLS Opening Day unbeaten run to 15 games, last losing its first match in 2009 - incidentally, the year RSL won MLS Cup.

The 2023 RSL side amassed the Club's seventh 50-point season all-time, and just the second since the 2014 campaign. Finishing 11th overall out of 29 teams, RSL crashed out of the postseason by the thinnest of margins for a second consecutive year (Austin 2022, Houston 2023), dropping a road shootout tiebreaker in Texas. Other 2023 RSL milestones:

Accumulated an all-time Club-best road record with 12 results in 17 away MLS matches, posting an 8W-5L-4T mark with 28 of its 50 reg. season points amassed on the road; RSL's previous road bests were recorded in 2012 and 2013, with identical 6W-7L-4T marks;

RSL's home mark of 6W-7L-4T was its worst since 2007, when a 4W-7L-4T record on the Rice-Eccles turf marked the 19-year nadir;

During a nearly four-month span from mid-April to early August, RSL dropped just three of 24 games across all competitions, including MLS reg. season action, its Open Cup run to the Semifinals and its initial Leagues Cup foray;

Thirty-two (32) different players saw action for RSL in 2023, including 15-year-old FW Axel Kei and 16-year-old Zavier Gozo making their Homegrown debuts, along with Academy products GK Gavin Beavers and DF Delentz Pierre also making their first-ever first-team appearances; a trio of rookies - D/M Emeka Eneli, FW Bertin Jacquesson and FW Ilijah Paul - made their professional debuts, while FW Andrés Gómez, MF Nelson Palacio, DF Kevon Lambert and DF Brayan Vera notched their first-ever MLS appearances last season;

Since April 16, 2005, RSL has enjoyed a prominent home-field advantage on Utah soil - posting a dominant 194-83-95 (Win-Loss-Draw) record across all competitions at home (1.82 points per game for a 0.649 win pct.) - since arriving on the Wasatch Front nearly 20 years ago;

Since opening its permanent home in Sandy just over 15 years ago, in October, 2008, RSL's 164-58-75 (W-L-T) mark at America First Field - home of the "RioT" Supporters Group umbrella - equates to a 1.91 points per game average and a 0.679 win pct, one of the truly amazing value proposition in North American sporting landscape today!

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