On Thursday, I received an email from the Washington Spirit announcing that tickets are on sale for the two matches they will play at Audi Field in downtown D.C.—one against the Orlando Pride on August 24th and one against Reign FC on September 14th.
I want to go to these games. And I think everyone else should too.
We should not underestimate what a massive opportunity these matches represent for the Spirit. The team usually plays at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland. On public transportation, it would take close to two hours to get there from downtown D.C. By car, that time gets cut down to 55 minutes. The reality is that the team isn’t very accessible to a lot of people that live in the D.C. area.
When we look at attendance troubles across the league, accessibility is an issue. Cost is another factor. For tickets to the Spirit’s recent home match against the Portland Thorns, the lowest cost ticket in the stands was $25. That’s not a ridiculous price, but when you factor in the commute, it’s out of reach for most people. They might be willing to pay $25 or $50 bucks to go watch a game at a professional soccer stadium downtown, but not at a recreational field in the suburbs.
I don’t know what kind of conversations are going on between the Washington Spirit and D.C. United with regards to Audi Field. But the Spirit should be pushing to move there full time. The move would lift the profile of D.C. soccer, and would certainly help push the Spirit in the direction of growth that the NWSL is looking for. I can’t guarantee that people will come to Spirit games in the same numbers that they come to D.C. United games. But I do know that playing at the Maryland SoccerPlex is a dead end, with little room for expanding the fan base or the attendance.
If NWSL wants to get casual sports fans, it needs to be accessible. Right now, the Spirit are not. Last year, the Spirit attracted nearly 8,000 fans when they played the Portland Thorns in late August. They will have the opportunity to prove that they can draw those numbers again or maybe even more fans this time around. With good numbers, who knows where talks could lead.
We need to support the Washington Spirit. If we want a women’s soccer franchise in the District, we need to show up for them. I’m going to go to at least one of these games, and I hope everyone else does too. It could be just the spark this organization needs.