And inevitably, those with an appreciation for league history will make note of the visiting team and wonder: When will D.C. United, a four-time MLS champion and a founding member, have something like this?
In a cruel twist, a team craving a new stadium for a decade is the first guest in the newest MLS fortress.
“I remain hopeful something can get done,” Commissioner Don Garber said Friday about United’s situation. “It’s just so frustrating we haven’t been able to do in that market what we’ve been able to do in so many cities.”
The Dynamo, which played its first season in 2006, will be the 12th of 19 MLS clubs housed in a medium-size stadium built with soccer in mind. (There are 11 facilities, but Home Depot Center near Los Angeles hosts two teams.)
The San Jose Earthquakes have land and plans for a new facility in the next few years. Teams in Portland, Ore.; Montreal; and Vancouver, B.C. — all entered MLS in the past two years — settled into existing stadiums renovated to meet their needs.
The Seattle Sounders, another recent league arrival, share CenturyLink Field with the NFL’s Seahawks. The arrangement works, though, because of the tall stadium design, prime city location and the league’s largest fan base.
And that leaves two teams stuck in inadequate venues: United and the New England Revolution. The Revs play at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s Patriots, who also own the MLS squad. The venue in Foxborough, Mass., dwarfs the soccer team’s modest crowds and is situated 27 miles from the cosmopolitan demographic that cares most about MLS.
Garber calls D.C. and New England “the last frontier.”
United has been hunting for a new home for years, only to see proposals falter in Prince George’s County and at Poplar Point in Southeast Washington. The latest focus is Buzzard Point, in Southwest Washington near Nationals Park. Outlines for a stadium and mixed-use development were drawn up two years ago.
United President Kevin Payne last week expressed optimism, tying the likelihood of additional team investors to a stadium plan.
“We hope these conversations with new partners will come to fruition this spring and conversations with the District [about a stadium] can resume in late spring or early summer,” he said. If a deal can’t be reached, relocation to Baltimore is an option.
Payne declined to identify potential investors, who would join current owner Will Chang in financing a stadium. But multiple sources said the group is likely to include Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir, part owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.