After dividing games the previous two seasons between the 20,000-capacity MLS stadium in DC and a 5,000-seat arena in Leesburg, the National Women’s Soccer League club, the Washington Spirit, has reached an agreement with D.C. United to play all of its home matches at Audi Field.
According to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could discuss the strategy openly, the parties signed a multiyear agreement that covers all regular season games, prospective playoff games, and the early-season Challenge Cup for a minimum of 14 home dates. Should the NWSL proceed with its expansion ambitions for the upcoming years, overall attendance should rise. Financial details were not disclosed, but the Spirit will pay far higher facility charges.
Stadium History of Washington Spirit
All of the Spirit’s home games were played at Maryland SoccerPlex, a 5,000-seat venue in Montgomery County, between 2013 and 2017. The team tried out playing three games at Audi Field over the course of the subsequent two seasons. The Spirit wanted to play there more frequently after attracting an average of 15,000 spectators. But in order to do so, United insisted that Washington also take part in games at Segra Field in Leesburg, a location that belongs to United.
By 2021, the Spirit had abandoned SoccerPlex and had made a deal with United to play games in Leesburg as well as Washington, D.C. Some fans found it challenging to travel to Segra Field, which is 35 miles from the center of Washington. The players complained about the subpar facilities and artificial turf at Segra Field.
The Future of Washington Spirit and Audi Field
The Spirit attracted an average of 8,914 spectators to six regular season games at Audi Field and 2,991 to five games at Segra Field last year. Loudoun United, United’s second-tier team, plays all of its games at Segra Field, which was completed in 2019. The NWSL has increased the minimum requirements for venues to 10,000 seats, which has led to an increase in games in the District.
The Spirit would have needed to submit a request for an exemption if it had kept performing in Leesburg. The sides’ agreement also stipulates that the Spirit may continue to use United’s training facility in Leesburg. The NWSL squad moved in over the winter and intends to remain there for some time.
The owner of Washington, Y. Michele Kang, has committed to boost investment in the Spirit since assuming full control of the business. The stadium idea is her most recent off-field action. In order to handle soccer operations, she hired Mark Krikorian, a three-time NCAA championship coach at Florida State, this year. She also hired Coach Mark Parsons, a former member of the Dutch national soccer team, and sports science specialist Dawn Scott last month.
Rox and Ken react to move and how this effects the Spirits growth prospects moving forward.