The Washington Nationals are in the midst of a playoff race, but fans can generally find a seat at the spacious 41,556-seat Nationals Park. The hardest to get summer sports ticket in Washington now belongs to the Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League.
Washington expects another sellout of the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Md., when the Spirit host the Houston Dash Aug. 1. Washington drew a club record 5,413 fans July 18. A record 13,025 fans turned out in Houston a week earlier.
Speaking of crowds, Washington holds the record for a professional women’s soccer match in the United States. In 2001 34,148 saw the Washington Freedom defeat the Bay Area CyberRays 1-0 at RFK Stadium. Mia Hamm starred for the Freedom while Brandi Chastain led the CyberRays in Women’s United Soccer Association action.
Nearly 6,500 fans saw the Dash (5-4-5) beat FC Kansas City 3-2 July 29. Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium holds 7,000 in its bowl.
NWSL teams averaged crowds of 4,411 in 46 games before and during the World Cup, league spokesman Patrick Donnelly told Examiner. In the 14 games since, attendance is up to an average of 5,869.
Washington (6-4-3) has not reported its crowd at the July 25 1-1 tie with Chicago. The Spirit are third in the league with 21 points. Houston is fourth with 20 points. The teams have each won home meetings earlier in the year. Houston won the season opener, 2-0. Washington won June 27 1-0 on a Crystal Dunn goal in front of 1,267.
Saturday’s game should feature World Cup vets Diana Matheson, Hayley Raso, Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger and Francisca Ordega for the Spirit. Dash mates Carli Lloyd, Meghan Klingenberg, Morgan Brian, Erin McLeod, Allysha Chapman and Lauren Sesselmann also played in the cup.
The Aug. 1 game will end Dash defender Niki Cross’ eight-year professional soccer career. She played for the Spirit last year.
Cross was a four-year letterwinner at Connecticut. She then played in various leagues in the United States, Sweden and Australia before joining Bayern Munich from 2012-14, winning the Frauen DFB Pokal in her first year with the club. Cross returned to the United States and appeared in 10 matches for Washington during the latter half of the 2014 season.