The Spirit’s other 10 home matches, including next week’s season opener against Sky Blue FC, will take place at Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County, the team’s base of operations since the NWSL started play in 2013.
The Spirit played at Audi Field once late last season, drawing a club-record 7,976 spectators for its first regular season home game at a location other than SoccerPlex, a small complex 17 miles outside the Beltway.
In the 11 games at SoccerPlex in 2018, the Spirit averaged 3,521 fans.
When it returned to the city, the Spirit had to weigh the benefits of playing in the hub of the metro area and potentially expanding its fan base with the cost of renting Audi Field and alienating suburban season ticket holders.
Upon announcing its schedule in late February, Washington did not specify the locations of two home dates. Both the Aug. 24 and Sept. 14 matches are slated to start at 7:30 p.m.
Audi Field, which holds 20,000 spectators, was available on that first date because United is at Philadelphia that night. Three weeks later, United is on the West Coast.
However, ticket holders for the Spirit’s Sept. 14 game could face crowd and transportation issues as baseball fans exit Nationals Park following a late-afternoon game. Audi Field and Nationals Park are about three blocks apart, on either side of South Capitol Street, and share the same Metro station and some commercial parking lots.
The Spirit is the latest organization to choose Audi Field for events. United has deals with the XFL starting in 2020, the Premier Lacrosse League this summer and the U.S. Soccer Federation for a June 5 friendly involving the men’s national team.
Loudoun United, D.C. United’s second-division squad, will play three or four home games at Audi Field before a new stadium in Leesburg opens in August. (One or two matches will take place at George Mason University.)
Meanwhile, the Spirit announced additional details concerning its new local TV and live-streaming partnerships, saying all matches that aren’t part of a national broadcast will be available on Monumental Sports Network, a digital pay-subscription service, and all but one of those matches will appear on NBC Sports Washington platforms.
However, neither the Spirit nor NBCSW has determined how many matches will be shown live on the primary cable channel. There also could be scheduling conflicts with NBCSW’s coverage of Washington Capitals playoff games this spring.