how San Diego broke the NWSL attendance record

how San Diego broke the NWSL attendance record

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The San Diego Wave stormed Snapdragon Stadium and set a National Women’s Soccer League attendance record, as more than 32,000 fans watched the 1-0 win against expansion team Angel City.

Record-breaking crowds are part of a trend in 2022 after Barcelona broke the world record for a women’s match twice this year, most recently with a large crowd of 91,648 in April.

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Wave’s audience, meanwhile, surpassed the 25,000 fans who attended a Portland Thorns game in 2019 to set the NWSL record and top-ranked team.

It was 30 minutes before the crowd, thrilled by whistle to whistle and led by the group of fans of the Sirens, was awarded a goal when 17-year-old Jaedyn Shaw scored the first goal in Snapdragon Stadium history, from a header. on the passage of Sofia Jokobsson. Shaw, a star of the U.S. youth national team, joined the Wave in July after she was granted permission to participate in the league’s Discovery Process mid-season, giving up her NCAA eligibility and allowing her to turn pro sooner. in the 2023 draft. Shaw has now scored in every professional game he has played in.

Wave keeper Kailen Sheridan closed the door on Angel City’s best chance of the night in the 71st minute, diving to his right to parry a penalty shot, then snuffing out a rebounding opportunity and choking the ball before showing a ear to ear smile at three defenders standing above her. Angel City never threatened again and the match ended 1-0.

Before moving to Snapdragon Stadium – built by San Diego State University primarily for the use of its football team – the Wave’s home for its inaugural season was nearby Torrero Stadium, with a seating capacity of 6,000.

The team sold out those matches, but their plan to move to the brand new 32,000-seat stadium across town still took many by surprise.

San Diego wave

The San Diego crowd on Saturday surpassed the 25,000 fans who attended a Portland Thorns game in 2019 to set the NWSL record. Photograph: Denis Poroy / Getty Images

NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman said the record-breaking crowd offered a “proof of concept”.

“People will appreciate our league in the way we value ourselves,” he said. “If you play in small stadiums, it seems like we are not a true professional league and it will be difficult to get the kind of respect and credibility we want. We showed up in a 32,000-seat stadium, many people were saying, “There are a lot of seats to fill”, particularly when San Diego was playing in a 6,000-seat stadium. Jill Ellis called me in the early summer and said, “We’ll run it out.”

Ellis, the president of the club who won the World Cup in 2015 and 2019 as the coach of the United States women’s national team, said the attendance setting made a statement.

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“We want to take a big leap – and even if that’s a stumbling block to the show, say ‘Hey, we’re here and we can break records’, to be honest with ourselves, we’re just getting started,” he said. “A realistic goal is to grow from this and have a competitive audience with the other top teams week after week.”

Snapdragon Stadium was still under construction in May when Wave began its inaugural season, leaving the team to begin its existence in the smaller Torero Stadium. Splitting the season between two stadiums also meant they couldn’t sell season tickets this year.

That meant the team had to push single-game tickets for their debut at the new stadium with one purpose – the effort Ellis hopes to pay back with season tickets for next year. He said he expects the team to settle in an area of ​​sustainable presence between 15,000 and 20,000 a night next year, comparable to Angel City and the Thorns.

Among the team’s ticketing strategies was a “Battle of the Clubs” competition between the region’s youth football teams, with the club selling the most tickets (CITY SC, ultimately), winning a free guided training session. from Wave coach Casey Stoney and a donation to their financial aid fund.

Ellis had experience with San Diego as a warm soccer bed before starting the Wave; in more than a decade as a coach at the University of California at Los Angeles, she has heavily recruited the region.

“There is just a great tradition and history of football here, and ‘Battle of the Clubs’ was a great way to activate that,” he said. “This is a city that just wants to throw its arms around you.”

Women’s sport continued to have a great year in 2022. It saw the biggest fight in women’s boxing history, Barcelona’s two record-breaking spectators, a record-breaking Champions League audience for women to see Lyon beat PSG in France and a sold-out crowd for Angel City’s home debut in April.

San Diego Wave fans

San Diego Wave fans cheer during the first half of Saturday’s game. Photograph: Denis Poroy / Getty Images

“We now know, what perhaps has been a question for a few years, that when women’s sports, and NWSL in particular, are given the opportunity to be successful, it can and is,” Berman said. “We have several test points in 2022.”

For 39-year-old Chelsea Klaseus, the Wave coming out party had come a long time ago.

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When she was 16, her parents took her to watch the 1999 World Cup semi-final against Brazil. When the World Cup went to Canada in 2015, she again went to a game in Vancouver with her parents and brother. Four years later, the family captured three games together in France. Next year, they are headed to Australia to do it again.

But before that, Saturday night they were part of the record crowd, albeit with his brother, a Los Angeles resident, wearing an Angel City FC scarf.

Before NWSL gave the wave in San Diego, Klaseus had to make do with the few times the women’s national team played at Qualcomm Stadium, all of which were well attended, before it was demolished to make way for the smaller Snapdragon Stadium when the San Diego Chargers they moved to Los Angeles.

“I always knew that with the right team, the right stadium and the right time he would join the NWSL in San Diego,” he said.

Wave’s big night came when the team didn’t even get the undivided attention of the region’s football community: just five miles away, the United Soccer League’s San Diego Loyal played at Wave’s old home at Torero Stadium.

The triumphant evening, however, also came after an auspicious start for Snapdragon Stadium. SDSU’s first match at the stadium was marked by record heat in the area, combined with a lack of shade in the seating area, which resulted in around 200 heat-related medical requests and more than dozen people being taken to hospital. .

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