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D.C. United to consider Audi Field as temporary home for its USL team

Audi Field (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

D.C. United needed a find a temporary home this year until Audi Field was ready to open.

D.C. United’s second-division team, slated to debut next year at a new stadium in Leesburg, seems likely to confront the same issue.

So the simplest solution, one that United is apparently weighing, is to play Loudoun United matches at Audi Field in Southwest D.C. for the first portion of the 2019 United Soccer League season.

Team officials said this week that they did not want to discuss the matter publicly, but behind the scenes, sources said they are formulating contingency plans and preparing to discuss next year’s timetable with USL, the umbrella organization for three lower-tier soccer circuits.

Two weeks ago, Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors approved construction of a 5,000-seat stadium at Bolen Park, near the Leesburg airport. D.C. officials, however, do not expect the project to be completed until the summer at the earliest, at least three months into the USL season.

With few alternative options in the Virginia exurbs, United would probably base the second-division team in Washington instead of renting temporary space in a small facility elsewhere in the region.

This year, before Audi Field opened, United played MLS home matches at Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County and Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

With 20,000 seats, Audi Field is much too large for USL purposes. But it would offer a short-term solution until the Leesburg venue opens.

With the Loudoun team, United would join several other MLS organizations in operating its own second-division offspring. Beyond marketing opportunities, the USL offers a competitive environment for developing younger players, not unlike minor league baseball (although MLS teams own only a few of the player contracts).

Without a USL team of its own, D.C. United has affiliated with the Richmond Kickers since 2013. The Kickers, founded in 1993, will play in the USL’s new third division next year.

The Leesburg stadium is part of a $15 million project that will include D.C. United’s training center for the first team, USL team and youth academy. The training center will not open until next summer, at the earliest, leaving the first team to continue practicing at RFK Stadium’s outer fields. United continues to rent its original locker room and other facilities at RFK, the team’s home for 22 seasons.

United’s business operations are moving into Audi Field’s offices this week. The stadium opened July 14 but work has continued on office space behind the south stands.

The technical staff, including General Manager Dave Kasper and the coaches, will eventually move into the Leesburg offices.

Next month, Kasper said he will begin interviewing candidates for Loudoun United’s coaching job, with a goal of hiring someone by Dec. 1.

There are also discussions within the organization of hiring a technical director to work under Kasper for the purpose of building the MLS and USL rosters and forging a broader plan from the youth academy to the first team.

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