WASHINGTON — The Washington Spirit are preparing to celebrate a historic day Saturday when they will set a new attendance record for the club and likely sell out 20,000-seat Audi Field.
As of Saturday morning, 17,917 tickets had been sold to the 7:30 p.m. ET match against the Orlando Pride. That number will continue to rise as tickets sell throughout the day. About 2,700 same-day, walk-up tickets were sold at the stadium for last year’s Spirit match at Audi Field. With that in mind, the Spirit opened standing-room-only tickets Saturday afternoon.
This match will shatter the Spirit’s previous attendance record, set during that inaugural Audi Field match last season, played in front of an announced crowd of 7,976.
Hosting games within city limits at Audi Field allows Spirit fans in the nation’s capital easier access to the team, which is currently in seventh place, just above Orlando. The Major League Soccer venue home to D.C. United is less than a mile from two Metro stops. The Spirit’s typical home venue, Maryland SoccerPlex, sells out at 5,500 people and is located roughly an hour outside the city.
The Spirit will return to Audi Field Sept. 14 to play Reign FC, a team that features World Cup Golden Boot winner Megan Rapinoe.
“One of the beauties of women’s soccer in this country is that there are unmatched expectations for the result. We expect greatness,” Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin said earlier this season. “Playing a couple matches at Audi Field gives us another opportunity to elevate their status. That’s what those matches will be about it. It’s to get our players greater exposure and create new opportunities for them.”
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) August 23, 2019
Sky Blue FC broke a club record last week after moving its game against Reign FC to MLS’ Red Bull Arena, where 9,415 attendees watched the 1-1 draw.
The Portland Thorns broke the National Women’s Soccer League attendance record earlier this month when 25,218 fans filled Providence Park, home to both the Thorns and the MLS’ Portland Timbers.
Growing the league
While there is plenty of international talent on both teams — including representation from the champion US, Australia, Canada, Jamaica, Scotland and Brazil — the talent in the league expands beyond those players.
“It is going to be all about exposure and promoting, not just the national team players, but the other players,” USWNT and Spirit midfielder Rose Lavelle said. “There are a lot of incredible players in this league that don’t represent a national team.”
For the Spirit, World Cup players Lavelle and Mallory Pugh will not take the field Saturday due to head and hip injuries, respectively. The Pride will be without superstar Alex Morgan due to concussion protocol. She was taken off the pitch on a stretcher Wednesday early in Orlando’s 2-1 win over Chicago.
#WASvORL injury report
OUT: Eubanks (maternity), McGrady (quad), Pugh (hip), Lavelle (head), Kellond-Knight (thigh)
OUT: Kennedy (suspension), Leroux (maternity), Pressley (cancer treatment), van Egmond (ankle), King (ankle), Morgan (concussion), Ubogagu (excused)
— Jason Anderson (@chestrockwell14) August 23, 2019
Six-time FIFA World Player of the Year and Brazilian international, Marta, is available Saturday after serving a two-game red card suspension.
“It is great that you can come out in your backyard and find a role model that you are not necessarily seeing on a day-to-day basis with the national team,” Lavelle said. “It is cool you can find inspiration in different spots in this league.”
One of those players is captain Andi Sullivan, who has played with the USWNT in camps but missed out on the World Cup roster that her roommates, Pugh and Lavelle, made. The versatile midfielder plays a holding role in the center of the field, but has also filled in at centerback in a young Spirit back line. Sullivan scored her first goal of the season in a 3-1 loss to the Thorns.
“I was very disappointed when she didn’t get picked to go to the World Cup. I think she deserved it on merit,” Spirit coach Richie Burke said. “She is such a good footballer wherever she plays. She is quick. She is technically good. She is strong, fearless, great in the air.”
The Spirit will look to break a four-game winless streak against the Pride. Meanwhile, Orlando goes to D.C. with momentum after taking down the Chicago Red Stars 2-1.
When: Saturday, Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Audi Field — Washington, D.C.
Streaming: : Monumental Sports Network, Yahoo (domestic), NWSLsoccer.com (international)