In announcing its regular season schedule, the Washington Spirit listed the venues for two home matches as “TBA” — a sign the National Women’s Soccer League team intends to visit Audi Field twice this year after playing there once last year.
It remains unclear, however, whether negotiations will yield one or two matches in the District.
The dates are Aug. 24 against the Orlando Pride and Sept. 14 against Reign FC (formerly the Seattle Reign). D.C. United does not have games scheduled on those days and, since last year, the Spirit has suggested playing twice in the city in an effort to expand the fan base.
Washington’s usual home venue is Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County, 30 miles northwest of the city center. The Spirit will play at least 10 matches at the Boyds facility.
A team spokesman declined to comment on the two other venues. United officials did not immediately respond to questions about possible talks with the Spirit.
One person close to the situation, who did not want to be identified because of ongoing negotiations, said the Spirit would probably play one game at Audi Field and weigh options for the other match. That could result in another game at SoccerPlex.
Last August, in its first game in the District since launching in 2013, the Spirit set a club record by drawing 7,976 to Audi Field for a 1-0 defeat to the Portland Thorns. Average attendance at SoccerPlex, during a two-win season, was 3,920. The high mark came in 2015 with a rate of 4,087.
In considering Audi Field, Spirit management must weigh the benefits of playing in the hub of the metro area — and with nearby public transportation, as well as pregame and postgame amenities — at the cost of alienating some portion of the fan base accustomed to the casual suburban setting with easy parking options.
The Spirit will open the season April 13 at home against Sky Blue FC (New Jersey). All but one of the 12 home games are slated for a Saturday night; the exception is Aug. 21, a Wednesday.
The nine-team NWSL will go dark between June 3 and 14 to avoid some conflicts with the group stage of the Women’s World Cup in France, which will kick off June 7. However, players selected by participating national teams could miss at least eight NWSL games while at World Cup training camp and the tournament, which will culminate July 7.
The Spirit employs two certain U.S. call-ups (Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle) and one under consideration (Andi Sullivan). Additionally, Washington players from Australia, Jamaica and Nigeria could be selected.
NWSL teams will open training camp March 4. The Spirit will play preseason friendlies against James Madison University on March 16 in Richmond; French club Bordeaux on March 23 in Boyds; University of North Carolina on March 30 in Leesburg; and Virginia Tech on April 6 in Boyds.