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Washington Spirit might split 2020 home schedule among three venues

The Washington Spirit averaged 18,645 in two appearances at Audi Field this season. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The Washington Spirit might play its home matches next season at three venues, including Audi Field, where the women’s pro soccer team drew two large crowds this year.

Discussions are ongoing and specifics change regularly. But according to several people familiar with the talks, the Spirit might end up splitting its 2020 home schedule among Audi Field, D.C. United’s 20,000-capacity venue; Maryland SoccerPlex, the team’s base for seven seasons; and Segra Field, a new facility in Leesburg.

What seems almost certain is the Spirit will play at least four times at Audi Field, where it averaged 18,645 spectators for appearances three weeks apart late this season.

A recent proposal would have the team play four National Women’s Soccer League matches at each of the three venues, split preseason games and friendlies between the smaller sites, and practice at SoccerPlex for one more year before a Leesburg training center being built by United is completed.

Officials from both organizations said Monday they did not want to comment.

Initially, the Spirit eyed seven matches at Audi Field and the other five at SoccerPlex. However, United pushed for the team to stage the others at Segra Field, a plan that would forge a stronger bond between the NWSL and MLS organizations.

United operates both Audi Field and Segra Field, which opened in August for second-division Loudoun United. Under the most recent proposal, the Spirit would ultimately rent those two stadiums, as well as the Leesburg training center, starting in 2021. Partly with the Spirit in mind, United recently decided to double the size of the center to 40,000 square feet.

It’s unclear whether the Spirit would maintain any presence at SoccerPlex after the 2020 season.

SoccerPlex and Segra Field have similar capacities: The Maryland stadium holds 5,300, which is 300 more than Segra Field. ­SoccerPlex has a grass field; Segra Field is covered with artificial turf.

Both are well beyond the Beltway, but in both cases, the Spirit would focus ticket-selling efforts on the respective suburban audiences and pursue broader outreach for the Audi Field visits. Spirit-sponsored surveys showed most fans attending the Audi Field matches this year came from Virginia, a sign the organization would not have trouble appealing to ticket buyers in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

United is owned by Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan. The Spirit is controlled by Steve Baldwin, a local software executive who has said he will grow the Spirit’s presence in the area.

Seizing on the momentum of the U.S. national team’s World Cup championship this summer, the Spirit drew a sellout crowd of 19,871 for an Aug. 24 match against the Orlando Pride at Audi Field. On Sept. 14, 17,418 witnessed a game against Megan Rapinoe and Reign FC.

Ten matches at SoccerPlex averaged 3,597. That complex is located in Boyds, an upper Montgomery County location that lacks mass transit options.

Playing at Audi Field is considerably more expensive than renting SoccerPlex, leaving Spirit officials to weigh growth potential against increasing financial demands. The respective costs have not been shared publicly.

United spent an estimated $250 million on the 20,000-capacity stadium in Southwest, which opened in July 2018. The city contributed up to $150 million for land acquisition and infrastructure projects.

As part of the proposal to play at Audi Field, the Spirit would gain permanent office space and a locker room.

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