Reading material: My match report from DCU’s 2-0 triumph over Panamanian side Tauro before a sparse crowd at RFK Stadium.
United’s prize package includes …
1. A berth in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals in March.
2. Bonus allocation money from MLS next season.
3. Preferential regular season scheduling from MLS to prepare for the two legs.
4. A possible home date against a Mexican club.
5. A possible top-four seed and hosting rights for the decisive second leg.
6. Rested starters for this weekend’s league match.
Four of the eight slots have been filled: DCU, Montreal Impact, Herediano and Pachuca.
Sporting Kansas City or Saprissa (to be decided Oct. 23)
Portland Timbers or Olimpia (to be decided Oct. 21)
Alajuelense, Cruz Azul or Chorrillo (to be decided Oct. 21)
Club America or Comunicaciones (probably to be decided Oct. 21)
CONCACAF will determine seeds 1-8 by points in the group stage, then goal differential. Because of a small goal differential (+4), DCU will probably need to win in Panama City on Oct. 21 to remain in contention for the top four.
If, however, United needs points from the Oct. 25 league finale at Montreal, Ben Olsen will probably have to send the second unit to Panama. Otherwise, he will likely mix and match at Tauro.
“We are going to go down there and try to get another result,” Olsen said. “We understand the seeding process. It can help you out in a big way. We understand that, but it does give us a luxury in that last game to also not bring guys depending on how the end of the season shapes up. We can bring our top group or bring our second group.”
As for the official attendance figure of 2,576, which was one of, if not the, smallest in club history at RFK …
You could see this coming after only 3,330 turned out in August for the first Champions League home match — and that included groups of Waterhouse supporters.
Why such small crowds for seemingly important competition?
1. Not part of the season ticket package.
2. Mid-week match.
4. Low-profile opposition.
5. Group stage, not a critical elimination match.
6. Secondary players projected to play.
7. No marketing and promotion.
8. RFK Stadium.
That said …
There were more people shopping at the Walmart Supercenter on H Street than at RFK. There were more people who showed up at Nationals Park, not knowing the baseball game had been rained out. There were more people lining up to jump the White House fence.
While these Champions League attendance figures are not the norm and will not determine whether United gains permission to build a stadium at Buzzard Point, the optics are not good — in person, in print and on TV. Fortunately, club officials have had to fret about only two of these pop-up matches. They can now turn their full ticket-selling attention to the last three league home games, starting Saturday afternoon against Philadelphia, and almost surely at least one playoff match.
You may wonder why United did not play these CCL matches at Maryland SoccerPlex, the site for many U.S. Open Cup affairs over the years. Frankly, attendance would have been smaller; few of those who truly want to see these games are going to venture to upper Montgomery County during rush hour. Another issue: The facility lacks proper infrastructure for large-scale TV production.