Reign FC has had its struggles on the road to the start the NWSL season but finally gets to play at home this weekend. Seattle's new women's professional soccer team hosts FC Kansas City at 8 p.m. Saturday at Starfire Stadium.
TUKWILA — Reign FC, already three games into the NWSL season, finally gets to play at home this weekend.
Exciting? Of course. But also a relief.
“I think the girls are just happy not to get on an airplane, to be honest,” said coach Laura Harvey.
Seattle’s new professional women’s soccer team hosts FC Kansas City in its long-awaited home opener Saturday. Kickoff is 8 p.m. at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila; tickets are available at ReignFC.com.
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The team has declined to provide a ticket sales update and doesn’t expect it will have to increase the stadium’s current capacity, an estimated 3,800.
As such, it remains somewhat of a mystery how the Reign will be received by a home crowd for the first time. Owner Bill Predmore said earlier in preseason that he was “disappointed” with season-ticket sales, but added this week that the team will “do OK” at the gate.
A lingering issue for the Reign has been some confusion within the community regarding the Sounders Women, an amateur team in the W-League that has existed since 2001. The team enjoyed an exciting, star-studded season in 2012 as it absorbed several national-team players after the collapse of Women’s Professional Soccer — the most recent incarnation of a pro league in the U.S. — but remained this year as a separate team in the W-League.
Predmore said in a live chat with seattletimes.com readers on Thursday that he tried “very hard” to make a deal with the owners of the Sounders Women to use that team in NWSL.
“Despite a genuine effort to make it work,” Predmore said in the chat, “it was clear that the owners of the Sounders Women were not interested in a partnership or in selling the club.”
“Right now our biggest problem is awareness,” he added. “We just need to let people know about the Reign, and we think they’ll be excited to come out and see a match.”
The road-weary Reign has had a rough start so far at 0-2-1. The early schedule was less than ideal, and while depth at forward is improving, it had taken a hit with injuries (Lindsay Taylor, eye) and some off-the-field matters (Tiffany Cameron, finished school).
Elsewhere, U.S. national team stars like goalkeeper Hope Solo (wrist surgery) and midfielder Megan Rapinoe (on loan with France’s Lyon) aren’t expected back until next month.
But for a sport that has failed twice in this country already, longterm matters will always weigh heavier that those in the short term. The biggest one is the league’s sustainability.
Harvey said each team will have to deal with its unique set of challenges to make that happen. In soccer-crazy Seattle, it’s coming to learn and embrace a brand-new franchise that started from scratch six months ago.
“Bums on seats, as we say back home, is definitely important,” said Harvey, with a nod to her native England, where she coached the decorated Arsenal Ladies. “People being interested is obviously massively important. We feel like we’re gradually gaining more interest, but ultimately if those fans don’t come through the gate, it doesn’t really matter because you need them to want to be part of it, which then brings a lot more with it — sponsorships and stuff. Sponsors want to know if people are going to be interested in the team. If they are, then they’re more likely to put money into the club, which again, helps you to be sustainable.”
• A live stream of the game will be available at ReignFC.com and at YouTube.com/NWSL. Predmore said streams leaguewide have been “an issue for some of the clubs. I don’t want to guarantee anything yet, but I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to pull it off without too many problems.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers