Yet another new MLS stadium will open Thursday night as Sporting Kansas City christens Livestrong Sporting Park, a $200 million, 18,467-seat arena in Kansas City, Kan. The inaugural home match, against the Chicago Fire on ESPN2 at 10 p.m. ET, comes after 10 consecutive away games, in which Kansas City managed just six points (1-6-3).
While the organization deserves applause for completing the project in 18 months, designing an outstanding facility and pledging millions to Lance Armstrong’s foundation that graces the stadium’s name, questions linger about whether Kansas City will be able to fill the place regularly. Despite a four-month build-up to the home opener, seats were still available as of Wednesday evening — and seating capacity there is modest. Weekend matches, of course, are much bigger draws than weekday events, so we’ll reserve judgement for a few months.
But with the club struggling on the field, one has to wonder how many fans will purchase tickets after the initial euphoria of the grand opening. A surge in home dates — between July 6 and Sept. 10, Kansas City will play 11 of 12 league matches at LSP — will also create a marketing challenge.
In the long run, the arena will strengthen the club’s roots after stays in two improper homes (oversized Arrowhead Stadium and odd-sized CommunityAmerica Ballpark) and provide another symbol of MLS’s growth. But as we’ve seen in other MLS markets, new stadiums aren’t a panacea. The paint has dried at LSP, but much work is required — in this case, both on and off the field.
*The first MLS club to open a soccer-oriented stadium, the Columbus Crew, rallied to defeat visiting Real Salt Lake, 2-1, before just 9,650 supporters, who booed one of their own. Andres Mendoza insisted on taking the tying penalty kick, even though Jeff Cunningham, one goal behind the retired Jaime Moreno for the league’s career scoring lead, is the first choice.
Two hours before the match, MLS suspended Crew reserve defender Josh Williams for violating the league’s drug policy. Williams, 23, who is sidelined with a hip injury and hasn’t made a league appearance this season, ingested an over-the-counter nutritional supplement containing a banned performance-enhancing substance.
*MLS all-star voting is underway. Each club has six players on the ballot. The squad will face Manchester United on July 27 at Red Bull Arena.
*The CONCACAF Gold Cup continues tonight with the second Group A matches in Charlotte:
Costa Rica-El Salvador, 7 p.m. Telefutura, univisionfutbol.com
Mexico-Cuba 9 p.m. Univision, univisionfutbol.com
*The D.C. United Women, a first-year club in the second-tier W-League, will make their home debut tonight at Maryland SoccerPlex.