“The decision came down to wanting to follow what our state and local governments set forth in the guidelines,” Sam Zweifach, the team’s finance and special projects director, said of the discussions about inviting fans. “We are committed to the health and safety of all our fans, players and staff, and we’ll be very thorough about this.”
With the match falling on a weeknight and many reluctant to attend such gatherings, “I don’t think we are going to hit close to 1,000,” Zweifach said. Some season ticket holders opted out of attending the six scheduled home matches this year, he said.
In its 2019 inaugural season, Loudoun United averaged 1,670 fans for 12 games at Segra Field. (Five others were played at Audi Field in the District.) Five weeknight games in Leesburg averaged 766.
The organization has been in regular contact with the Loudoun County government, which oversees Philip A. Bolen Park, the site of Segra Field. A county spokesman referred to state guidelines.
While most U.S. leagues are playing in single-location bubbles and MLB is in home markets without spectators, the second-flight USL Championship and third-tier USL League One have allowed clubs to follow local guidelines in deciding whether to admit fans.
The Richmond Kickers, who play in League One, made their home debut Saturday in front of 822 at City Stadium. Loudoun’s first two away matches since the restart, both at Hartford, were attended by small numbers of spectators.
Louisville City, the 2019 runner-up in the second division, has announced 4,850 for each of five matches at 15,000-capacity Lynn Family Stadium. Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City and Tampa Bay, among others, have had spectators.
MLS, which on Tuesday will finish a five-week tournament in a Disney World bubble before restarting the regular season in home markets, has also deferred to local authorities. The league must approve individual team plans.
Most MLS teams will operate without spectators, at least in the first phase (through Sept. 14). However, FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake are aiming to welcome fans at reduced capacity right away.
D.C. United will not have fans at Audi Field for the first three of nine planned home matches through early November. But the club said, in conjunction with local officials, it will “continue to evaluate the possibility of welcoming fans to attend future matches.”
Loudoun United will require all spectators to wear masks, except young children. “If anyone gives us any trouble,” Zweifach said, “they’ll be asked to leave.”
The largest block of tickets sold together is four, with exceptions for families. The team will block off seats to provide at least six feet of distance between individuals or groups.
Ticket holders will receive recommendations for timed entry into their seating section. While fans can leave anytime they want during the match, the team plans to implement a timed exit policy.
Fans will order concessions and merchandise ahead of time or via an app for pickup. No cash is allowed. The team will set up sanitizing stations. Picnic tables on the gravel grounds and seating areas in the tented suites are being removed.
Zweifach said the team has been working with the county’s economic development group to shape precautions and “to handle this safely and smartly.”