As it prepares for an upcoming match at D.C. United‘s Audi Field, the NWSL’s Washington Spirit hopes that the contest provides a boost to its organization.
Among the nine teams in the 2018 NWSL lineup, there are several clubs that play in MLS stadiums and are part of an MLS organization, including attendance success stories in Portland and Utah. The Spirit, however, is a separate organization from United and plays its home matches in a 4,000-seat stadium at the Maryland SoccerPlex in suburban Montgomery County.
On Saturday, August 25, the Spirit will play a home game against Portland at Audi Field–the new stadium in D.C.’s Buzzard Point neighborhood that opened for United last month. While the opportunity to play a home match at a state-of-the-art MLS venue should provide a boost to the Spirit, club officials–including owner Bill Lynch and president Chris Hummer–hope that a strong attendance number can be a building block for future Audi Field matches and perhaps even a firmer connection with United. More from WTOP:
“This is a test for us,” Hummer told WTOP. “We can build our database with a bunch of new fans that we didn’t have before from this game. And if we get a great turnout, it makes the confidence a lot higher that we could contract far enough in advance to lock up dates in the future for the purpose of more Audi Field games.”
While the viability of the league’s potential partnerships with MLS teams is nothing new, it hasn’t yet materialized beyond a few markets. United has plenty of more pressing issues, acclimating to a new ownership group as well as a new home. But officially partnering together down the road could help provide more stability, as well as become a way to get the Spirit playing in D.C., much the way the Portland Thorns are with the Portland Timbers of [MLS]. They share not just a stadium, but marketing and community efforts. The Thorns lead NWSL in attendance, averaging over 17,000 fans per game for the second straight year.
Could such a partnership be on the horizon?
“We’ll see,” said Lynch. “We’ve had a good relationship with D.C. United even before Jason (Levien) and folks were here … They’re certainly willing to talk about and what makes sense for both of us down the road.”
Audi Field could certainly provide the Spirit with a greater level of exposure than the club receives at Maryland SoccerPlex, where it is one of the lower-drawing clubs in the NWSL. That exposure should include a strong attendance boost compared to the average Spirit match, but clearly the club is hoping that the game will resonate in a way that will build its profile over the long haul.
RELATED STORIES: Washington Spirit Could Play 2018 Home Match at Audi Field