Last Saturday, my boys and I took in a rivalry match in the great commonwealth of Kentucky (my adopted home state). On a hot, muggy day at Slugger Field in Louisville, Louisville City FC took on their arch-rivals, FC Cincinnati. Louisville City set an attendance record of 11,632, with a raucous crowd from both teams’ supporters made it an incredible atmosphere.
It was then that I realized:
If professional soccer can rise up in Kentucky, where college basketball is king (and will be for the foreseeable future), then soccer has reached a marvelous tipping point in the consciousness of the American sports landscape.
Of course, I wore my Colorado Rapids hat because, well, Rapids! I had never attended a USL game, even with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks an hour south of us (don’t hate me, Jason—I’m coming soon). Why not?
Hmm, that’s a good question.
I wonder if somehow I felt the USL was minor league and lesser quality than MLS and thus I avoided it. But after watching both Louisville City and FC Cincinnati, and earlier seeing FC Cincinnati win against the Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup quarterfinals, I suddenly knew I was missing out. We have some owners in USL who care about their clubs and are all in for their particular city. And the supporters pick up on that vibe.
So, South Stands, this is a Rapids blog...
I know, I know - this is a Rapids blog. I couldn’t help but compare and contrast, fairly or unfairly based on one game, what I was seeing and experiencing here with what I see and experience with our Rapids - both in the ‘feel’ we get from ownership, and the ‘feel’ of the park in which the Rapids play.
We at the Burgundy Wave have spilled much ink (lit many pixels?) regarding lack of personal care, finances, and presence from ownership, as well as the much-needed improvements at DSGP in both kid-friendly spaces and food selections, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. But being at a USL game with slides and carousels for the kids, and restaurants surrounding the field on the outside and solid vendors on the inside; I realized what could draw fans in to actually see our incredible supporters (Centennial 38) and create an exciting atmosphere for our Rapids.
What we are seeing now with some of these USL teams is stunning. Five teams average over 7,000 in attendance:
- FC Cincinnati: 19,745
- Sacramento Republic: 11,569
- Louisville City FC: 8,529
- San Antonio FC: 7,263
- Rio Grande Valley FC: 7,162
The average attendance across the rest of the USL is just over 4,000 fans. The support for regional soccer is gaining a foothold in some very interesting places.
Each of these teams demonstrate a strong ownership and a strong love for the city in which they play.
And it’s difficult for me, as a season ticket holder, to not long for that regarding our ownership.
I’ve written about how much I appreciate those who work for the Rapids, but seeing how involved other owners are in regards to their clubs show how much this is missing with Rapids. A desire communicated and demonstrated by ownership, again, with personal presence, care, and finances are areas of needed improvement.
Soccer is rising in unexpected places, which means soccer should also rise in an expected places such as Denver. Yes, we have a dated stadium. Yes, the Rapids play outside of Denver proper. Yes, the Rapids/KSE could develop the area around the stadium, making it a place to be.
But if soccer can rise in Kentucky (Kentucky!), it can flourish in Denver with our Colorado Rapids.
But it has to start at the top.