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Soccer Wars: Somebody Still Loves RFK

The fans of Washington's soccer franchise are reaching out to sad, old, otherwise-abandoned RFK Stadium: Somebody still loves you, the fans of DC United are shouting to anyone who believes the show is over at the District's municipal ballpark.

When I wrote last week about the final Nationals baseball game at RFK, soccer fans howled, arguing that several Post writers--Tom Boswell, William Gildea, yours truly--were treating their team and sport as an afterthought, an appendage barely worthy of mention in the (unwarranted) RFK obits.

The United fans' plaint goes like this: The soccer team's attendance at RFK this year has been only a few thousand fans lower than the Nats'. The soccer crowd is more visibly excited than the baseball crowd. The big soccer game of the year was a sellout. United is doing better than the previous soccer franchises in Washington history. United has a contract with the city to stay at RFK, so the stadium isn't coming down anytime soon. Soccer is up and coming; baseball is in decline. Soccer is really good; won't you please give it a chance?

From there, the soccer fans who write in tend to blast Mayor Adrian Fenty for having put the kibosh on a proposal that would have given developer Victor MacFarlane, who also owns DC United, the right to a large parcel of parkland in Anacostia where he would build a soccer-only stadium as well as a residential and retail community. Fenty wants to see what other developers have in mind for the Poplar Point parcel before he grants anyone the right to build on public parkland. And the soccer fans rip me for being overly partial to baseball and for denigrating the sport they love.

"I was at the game last night with 25,000 other people," United fan Larry France wrote the other day. "And unlike the Nationals, there were actually 25,000 people there. You know what I mean. The atmosphere was electric. The game was exciting and packed with great moments. I took my 3-year-old son. It was his first game ever and he can't wait to go back. Rest assured, he and I will both be going frequently, along with tens of thousands of other people every game until Mayor Fenty... allows us to build our own stadium. When that happens, then you can write the obit for RFK. But until then, please don't be so disrespectful."

While Fenty told me some weeks back that the demolition of RFK could happen sooner rather than later, and the United contract with the District only extends to December of this year, the city is eager to cut a deal to support a new soccer-only stadium, and the mayor struck a conciliatory tone with the Post's Dan Steinberg the other day.

But the passion of United fans often boils over into vituperative and defensive rants against baseball, football and any other sport that wins more attention and support. Check out the comment boards on any of the above links and you'll see various harangues against other sports (with plenty of return fire from fans of the Nats, Redskins or other teams.)

As I have written to a number of United diehards, while I am not a soccer fan, I am pleased any time a sports team finds success in Washington. The Nats-United rivalry does not exist except in the minds of a few United fans. Don't take my word for this: Look at the actions and conclusions of the teams' owners themselves: One team is building a 41,000-seat stadium while the other is looking to move to a smaller facility, likely in the 20,000-25,000 seat range.

My colleague Steinberg--as he notes in his Bog--sides with the United fans:

"I honestly don't get the soccer thing," he tells me about my last column's glancing reference to United. "It just seems bizarre and vindictive. Why do you hate it so?"

Steinberg says that if United is "struggling," then so are pretty much all Washington area teams, save the Redskins. The Nats, for example, slipped way down in attendance this season, with an average of 24,000--and he argues that there are lots of no-shows and some games where "at least 20 percent of the fans were there for the visitors." I'd say he's right about that for games involving the Cubs and maybe the Mets, but otherwise, Nats games suffer from Turncoat Fan Syndrome vastly less than do the Orioles and other second-tier teams.

Steinberg says United's attendance level is a factor of "the team's relative lack of media attention and modest budget (players make considerably less than most fans)." He says United does not struggle to lure fans, at least no more than most other D.C. teams.

"GW basketball," he notes by way of example, "was ranked in the top 10 two years ago and couldn't sell out a 5,000-seat gym; that's struggling. Georgetown went to the Final Four last year and averaged barely half their building's capacity and about half what United averages for the same number of home games, despite the fact that the Hoyas regularly lead shows like Sportscenter and Sportsnite. The Nats and Caps are at the bottom of their leagues in attendance. The Wizards couldn't fill their 20,000-seat building for two playoff games against LeBron, the league's biggest star. Many of these programs/teams are national punchlines for bad fan support. But it seems like you go out of your way to find something negative to say about the one model franchise in this area, whose fans are universally acknowledged to be the best in MLS."

"The one model franchise in this area"? Wow, that's pretty strong. Seems to me that since this region is home to the most profitable franchise in professional sports (the Redskins), and a new, mid-tier baseball franchise that the industry believes is poised to jump into the top ranks (in revenue, if not in field quality), and an NBA (and former NHL) owner who spent his own money to build an arena that sparked a remarkable transformation of downtown Washington, the soccer team has quite a bit of competition for that title.

United fans are right that the Nats have a long way to go in establishing the kind of baseball fervor that we see in cities such as Philly, New York and Boston. But if you'd been at last Sunday's final game at RFK, you'd have seen a packed house that was absolutely rocking the old park on behalf of the Nats. The challenge for the Lerners will be to build a team that captures the hearts of fans the way the Skins have--and as United and the Wizards have in much smaller pockets.

I don't think it is disrespectful of United or its fans to note that RFK has not worked out as a venue. It is simply too large for soccer's current status as a spectator sport. It's not shameful for United's owners to search for a venue where they can build a stadium that would be half the capacity of RFK. It's realistic and smart.

A soccer stadium has the potential to be both an engine of economic development and an important public asset. That doesn't justify a giveaway by the city to a proposal that has not been tested against the market. But it does mean, as Fenty has said, that the District should try to find a way to support soccer--or else the team will move to the suburbs, and pronto.

By Marc Fisher |  October 3, 2007; 7:44 AM ET
Previous: Marion Barry, Soccer Maven | Next: Do Montgomery's Millions Buy Big-Time Status?


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Where is the United store?

Posted by: wantobeafan | October 3, 2007 8:55 AM

That was a long blog entry to discuss a simple subject. How about just rooting for all of our home teams instead of playing them against each other? Let's go Skins, let's go Nats, let's go Bullets, and let's go United!

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | October 3, 2007 8:58 AM

It's kinda sad the way soccer fans keep seizing upon any opportunity in such a sad, desperate manner, trying to make soccer into a mainstream sport here. Like a short person trying to prove he's just as tall as you are. Sad.

Posted by: Stick | October 3, 2007 9:01 AM

Actually, what is sad, "Stick", is your inability to realize that soccer is already mainstream. Welcome to the world, "Stick".

I'll never understand what is so threatening about soccer that makes other sports fans foam at the mouth.

Posted by: Riz | October 3, 2007 9:04 AM

You don't seem interested in the possibility that you are offbase here, Mr. Fisher. The Post's hullabaloo coverage of the last game at RFK was misleading. Soccer fans are disappointed that D.C. is switching gears. Did you bother to research the back story on that? DC United fans, and soccer-beat sportswriters, do not regularly trash other sports in the interest of advanceing their first love, soccer. They don't have to! It's tipping point time!

Posted by: Soccer Mom | October 3, 2007 9:06 AM

I've seldom, if ever, seen anything in print from a Nats fan, dumping on the Redskins (well, Dan Snyder, maybe), Wizards, or Caps. This with the, admitted, exception of complaints about what soccer did to the turf at RFK.

I've seldom, if ever, seen a Redskins fan dumping on the Nats, Wizards, or Caps.

I've seldom, if ever, seen a Wizards fan dumping on the Nats, Redskins, or Caps.

I've seldom, if ever, seen a Caps fan dump on the 'Skins, Nats, or Wizards.

I read and see constant constant complaints and defensiveness from United fans. Do we detect a pattern, here?

Posted by: mikes | October 3, 2007 9:10 AM

I would just like to say that I think the animousity is being exaggerated here. I am a STH for both the Nats and United, and I love both of these teams. It makes me wonder who is fanning this 'rivaly'. I just don't see it.

Posted by: Martine | October 3, 2007 9:16 AM

Yes, the pattern is Skins, Nats, and Wiz fans dumping on United/soccer. This is just a normal reaction from people who are frankly tired of it.

Posted by: Hoost | October 3, 2007 9:18 AM

"the Redskins, the most profitable franchise in professional sports"

From Forbes Magazine:

Rank Team Current Value ($mil) 1-Yr Value Change (%) Debt/Value (%) Revenue ($mil) Operating Income ($mil)
1 Dallas Cowboys 1,500 28 42 242 4.3
2 Washington Redskins 1,467 3 16 312 66.0
Rank Team Country Current Value 1 ($mil) Debt/Value 2(%) 1-Yr Value Chamge(%) Revenue ($mil) Operating Income 3($mil)
Manchester United England 1,453 84 6 92
Well, not exactly, eh, there Mr. Fisher. The Cowboys are projected by Forbes as the most profitable. Ouch, that's gotta hurt round DC! Interesting that ManU is barely behind the Skins...and would have a much higher rating (and been once again the most profitable team in the world) had they not been bought by the Glazers and financed with a ton of debt...which brings down their rating.

But it's irrelevant in any case, does more profitable mean a more "model" club? I mean, ask 'em in Cincy, how they felt in the late 90s with the 5th most profitable team in the NFL, but one of the most laughable on the field! :-) Also, bagging on DCUnited's attendance in comparison to the Redskins is really funny and off base... One league has been around since the 20s and the other started in '96? And what was the attendance like in the NFL before it actually took off in the late 50s?

Posted by: todd11 | October 3, 2007 9:18 AM

this is perhaps the most reasoned thing you have ever written about the Beatiful Game, thanks, Marc.

a few points: you mention the different stadium sizes. What kind of stadium do you figure the Lerners would have built if it was coming out of their own pockets and had to be paid back from their own pockets, instead of city-underwritten bonds payable by added taxes on game-goers? That is where the jump in revenue you are talking about will come from, right? a publicaly guaranteed (not paid for, sorta co-signed) stadium?

That, at least, has been the exception in the DC area, rather than the rule. Compare MacFarlane and Chang (oh, did we mention the minority owners?) more to people like Pollin, as you did, who are willing to plunk their own cash down to put a stadium in a place that needs revitalization (or in the case of poplar point, vitalization, nothing "re" about it) if the team fails, as MLS is always potentially likely to do, MacFarlane, Chang, et al are stuck with a white elephant. or compare them to Jack Kent Cooke, who had the foresight to build the largest stadium in the league in the most inaccessible place possible, knowing the fans would come.

now the Nat stadium, at 41,000 people (and ridiculous prices for good seats) how often do you figure they honestly think they can sell that place out after the first blush of 'new stadiumitis' goes away? when's the last time the Nats drew 41,000 to RFK? sure, they might sell out a couple of games in the first year, maybe 20? but then they will likely settle back down to the 25,000 range, keeping all that excess capacity for the big games and potentially the playoffs (if all goes well) a full stadium means much more, on a regular basis, in soccer than in baseball. I have been to five Nats games (including friday night and saturday games) and five United games this year (yes, including Beckham) and I have never felt the old lady shake for baseball, even at critical moments, as it does for soccer much of the time. They are different crowd experiences, of course, different sports. The Nationals don't really care if on a wednesday night game in mid-april the stands are full and shaking, United does. so the Nats build a bigger stadium than they need for day-to-day usage, hoping for big nights (and knowing they aren't fronting the money), and United builds a smaller stadium for every day use, wanting that more than the bigger nights that growth promises (not gambling on the bigger nights, since it's their money)

oh, and hey, Poplar Point, when built, will have enough parking, do you really see 41,000 people taking the green line to insert-name-of-obscure-financial-company-here Park on a Tuesday night?

Posted by: northzax | October 3, 2007 9:22 AM

Where's your opposition to the Radio One giveaway, Mr. Fisher? Or at least you should call Mayor Fenty out for not making that a transparent and open bid.

Last Sunday's game between the Nats and Phillies was populated by Phillies fans. Thousands of Phillies fans. It still wasn't sold out.

RFK has worked out as a venue. The only thing that doesn't work out is the lease. Just look at National Team games, MLS Cup, international friendlies (Barcelona/Milan) and the Beckham game. The stadium comforably and regularly holds 20,000 and has the capacity for 40-50,000 fans of soccer.

To compare the new stadium (United/Nats) proposals is a joke. The Nationals need to fill a 40,000 seat stadium to make the payroll. DC United will fill a 20,000 seat stadium to a profit. In addition, it makes the ticket an item to be had. In mid June, I'll wager you can walk up to the box office and have your choice of seats at Starbucks Park. Take a look at Toronto. They could have built a 40,000 seat stadium there, maybe gotten 30,000+ for a game, but the demand for tickets would be non-existant and the atmosphere would suffer with the empty seats.

And Abe Pollin got plenty of city inducements for the arena that he may have built but will ultimately be owned by the city. And isn't he asking the city for $50 million for a freakin' scoreboard? Don't try to make out that Abe is like JKC was. JKC went and did his thing on his own because of the lack of forethought in city leaders. Just like we are seeing right now.



Posted by: JayRockers! | October 3, 2007 9:23 AM

Re: the previous soccer thread.

Semi unconfirmed rumor is that Snyder actually will build the 'Skins new stadium with his own money at RFK site.


1. He wants the Superbowl
2. He wants the Final Four (the facility will be either domed or have a movable roof).
3. He wants to be able to do concerts / events 12 months a year.
4. When the title of largest scoreboard in a sports facility goes from the new DC Baseball park to the to new football stadium in Dallas Snyder will want to make sure that bigger than Jerry Jones'

Posted by: mikes | October 3, 2007 9:23 AM

Let's be honest: the quality of MLS soccer is absolutely abysmal. It's no wonder the sport hasn't caught on with most Americans. But popularity is growing quickly, particularly now that folks have access to Fox Soccer Channel and other premiere cable networks that showcase *good* soccer. These days you see kids walking down the street wearing Messi, Lampard, and Ribery jerseys -- top-notch Euro players that many Americans simply don't know ... yet.

I think soccer will come around in the US once our own skill levels increase (stop with the long balls and reliance on set pieces!) and once the MLS can afford to draw the high-profile players. As our kids continue to watch the Europeans and South Americans, we'll have a greater, stronger pool of talented American players. I see this happening already. And no, I'm not referring to Freddy Adu. (The kid had promise, but he's lost it due to the MLS media machine. And his own ego.)

It's likely that soccer will never be as popular as basketball, baseball, or American football in this country. That's sad, but I choose to think of it as "our little secret" for those of us who appreciate the beauty and athleticism of the game.

In the meantime, I agree that United and every other MLS team must build a soccer-specific stadium. We can't keep playing in 60,000+ seat football stadiums that, save the arrival of Beckham, are never filled (which looks awfully embarrassing on TV). On top of that, they are terribly expensive to lease -- if you have 20,000 fans at a game, each of whom paid no more than $40 (and that's including parking), is it really enough to pay the rent at RFK AND turn a profit?

Oh, and I agree that this "Stick" fellow is an absolute moron.

Posted by: deeds | October 3, 2007 9:29 AM

I too noticed that the RFK obit seemed to forget DC United and soccer.
I happen to love sports (football, soccer, basketball, hockey, baseball, lacrosse (sic?), car racing, competitive kitchen sweeping, etc.) so I don't see any conspiracy to denegrate DC United and soccer in general.
It seems to me that sports like baseball, basketball and football are totally integrated into our national sports identity - therefore get more coverage. I remember a time when college football was more popular that the NFL. I remember when auto racing was the dominated by the Indy 500 not NASCAR.
I guess what I'm saying is that given time; a good competitive product; a chance to build traditions and legends - soccer will become its own national pastime. If you need evidence, just look at the Beckham game sellout or how mad we get when the US soccer team plays an international match here and the visiting team's fans outnumber Americans.

Posted by: bobbyrio | October 3, 2007 9:32 AM

Wizards games are a joke. How many of the courtside seats are comps. Do you really believe all the people on the baseline are paying 1k per ticket? And the redskin sellouts? Look at the Yellow Section. Even for the Dallas game, that section is not completely full. If DC United could could get a small portion of the black residents to come out and support the team, they could easily sell 30K tickets a game. Good seat Ticket Prices are only $35 a ticket.

The Beckham game was the sporting event of the year.

Posted by: Hunter | October 3, 2007 9:35 AM


You are off base on the comment about a city giveaway. The fact of the matter is that the United ownership is proposing something very similar to what Abe received for MCI...infrastructure upgrades. These are the same upgrades that ANY developer is going to require of the city.

Further, without the efforts of this ownership group, Poplar Point would still be in the hands of the Federal Government, and this discussion, and potential District yield, would be moot.

Posted by: A DC Sports Fan | October 3, 2007 9:44 AM

There seems to be a vocal group of people who support other sports and soccer should not "meddle" among the "true" sports of football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. I strongly believe that each sport has its merits and its problems, and the one that I enjoy the most is soccer.

In recent years, there has been a trend to build newer stadiums within urban areas and with easy access to mass transit. This is very logical and helps rebuild and restore decadent downtown areas. Within this trend, DC has seen the construction of Verizon Center and the soon-to-open Nationals Stadium on the Anacostia waterfront. In the opposite direction, the Redskins left the city for the suburbs, and are reaping good results as well, but this doesn't help the city as much as the in-city stadiums.

So, a win-win situation shows up: DC United wants to build an urban stadium and allow RFK its final and true farewell. With the city's support, DC United lobbies the federal government to transfer an unused park area to the city. When that deal is almost done, the city suddenly wants other developers to submit "more profitable" deals, without having to provide the social and economic benefits to the area. On the other hand, MLB got a sweetheart deal and a free baseball-specific stadium.

This is what sounds fishy. I have nothing against the baseball stadium. I have nothing against allowing the Redskins to come back to Washington to the RFK site in the future. I just want soccer to receive the same respect that other sports receive.

RFK might be on its way out. It's not gone yet. It doesn't get filled to the rafters with soccer very often, but it will on occasion. There is no other facility within Washington DC or its near suburbs that is as well-suited to soccer. At least until the city allows DC United to build it on Poplar Point.

Posted by: H. Kemp | October 3, 2007 9:44 AM

Hey Fisher, your definition of a model franchise is quite different from Dan's and as a result, it completely misses the point. Steinbog explicitly framed it as a question of fan support and his examples speak volumes for how the media perceives the local sports food chain and the reality in the stadiums and arenas.

Plus, how many more tickets would United sell if they had $5 seats or the absurd $3 tickets that the Nats were offering at the end of last season?

Posted by: Greg | October 3, 2007 9:45 AM

"The soccer team's attendance at RFK this year has been only a few thousand fans lower than the Nats'."

Really? The Nats drew a bit less than 2 million. Weren't there something like 16 soccer games? So the United drew 125K per game?

Wow, that's pretty good, albeit somewhat impossible, given RFK's capacity.

Posted by: burke | October 3, 2007 9:50 AM

Snyder definitely wants to build a new stadium on the RFK site, but the kind of palace he's envisioning would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and he doesn't have the cash. He'd have to take on new partners / investors or sell debt to raise the funds. In order to get a decent return on that investment, he'd expect big concessions from the city in terms of infrastructure, taxes and development rights for the land surrounding RFK (not to mention sky-high ticket and concession prices for us schlub fans). Those are concessions the city just won't make in the near to medium term. In short, ain't gonna happen for the forseeable future.

Posted by: Claudius | October 3, 2007 9:52 AM

Hi Marc. Thanks for writing the piece.

It seems your intent here is to imply that soccer fans have an inferiority complex. That is true to some extent, but you are clearly exaggerating it. Most of my email had nothing to do with the Nats. It had to do with United and its fans and their relationship with RFK.

I'm a lifelong baseball fan. I often say that I grew up at Memorial Stadium on 33rd street in Baltimore. I went to 30 games as a 5 year old. I love baseball. It's probably my favorite sport. I have nothing against the Nationals other then that United's field gets messed up by the baseball diamond. I'm happy they're getting their own stadium. They deserve it.

My problem was not with the Nationals but with your article. You completely overlooked a team that held down the fort at RFK while no one else was there. Would RFK even be around if United had not been here? Where would the Nationals have played? Would they have even come without a temporary stadium situation?

Anyway....thanks again for writing the article. Why don't you let me buy you a ticket for an upcoming United game. You can come as my guest. The entire thing is on me.

Posted by: Larry France | October 3, 2007 9:53 AM

Baseball - Soccer.
Why not build something that will truly sell out for every event. Why not a racetrack in DC or one of the suburbs? Bring NASCAR back to Washington. I've head the pleasure of attending races in some of the biggest tracks and seeing 100K plus in there. Mr Fenty - think of the revenue for the area. In fact - make a call to your neighbor ask Richmond's mayor about the economic boon they enjoy from their multiple races.

Posted by: L7 | October 3, 2007 9:54 AM

The media has a responsibility to promote soccer as much as it does with other sports. A lot of the folks that attended the Beckham game were only waggonist that went as a status statement. Essentially to show off to friends that they were at the Beckham game. The die hards are there week in week out, rain or shine.

Soccer just doesn't get the same attention like other sports unless it's a major game then every one gets the fever. I've been to one of the Nationals game and the attendance was pathetic but the game was highlighted nonetheless. Had that been soccer, it wouldn't made the sportcast.

If it wasn't for the immigrant population in this metro area DC United would have to pack up and open shop elsewhere.

Posted by: Ridimup | October 3, 2007 9:54 AM

Deeds, I agree with almost everything you say, but have a quibble with your characterization of MLS soccer as 'abysmal' and your conjecture that that is the reason there is no support.

The quality of play in MLS has improved dramatically, esp. considering that the league only began in 1996. To cherry pick two or three of the world's best teams and say that American soccer isn't as good as that is disingenuous and pointless. No soccer in any country is as good as that. Only a handful of teams in the world are capable of playing at the level of Barcelona, for example. Does that mean that the game shouldn't be supported locally?

Despite the best efforts of some old-line sports writers (Deford, are you listening?) soccer is catching on rapidly, and often at the expense of the 'bigger' sports like baseball ad hockey. And yes, that means our little secret might not remain ours for long.

Posted by: MattM | October 3, 2007 9:55 AM


Paint by numbers columnist generated soccer-themed internet slapfight.

1. Reactionary stick in the mud makes backhanded slight at local soccer team,

2. Fans of soccer team and soccer in general react vehemently. Other folks with an axe to grind about soccer (or soccer fans) post inflammatory comments defending stick in the mud.

3. Reactionary stick in the mud feigns reasonable dialogue with fans and collects lots of free comment and copy

4. Reactionary stick in the mud writes even more patronizing blog entry explaining the emotional frailty and flawed logic of soccer fans

5. Rinse & Repeat

This will go nowhere but the gutter

Posted by: Eric | October 3, 2007 9:56 AM

Burke... you can't be serious. A comment like that is just embarrassing. By your reasoning the Nats have more fan support than the Redskins.

Posted by: Greg | October 3, 2007 9:57 AM

I was at the last Nats game at RFK. it wasn't full. I'd have to guess the crowd was around 35-37,000. Decent crowd, but not a sellout. Bloody 'Skins game pulled away alot of people I would wager.

Also, the 'Skins aren't moving back to DC any time soon unless Danny wants to pay a fine as big as the cost of the new stadium to Prince Georges County and Maryland. The contract that was signed to get the road improvements done includes some major penalties.

BTW, Abe didn't do it all on his own. DC kicked in a bunch of money to buy land and clean up the contamination on the site.

Posted by: EricS | October 3, 2007 9:58 AM

Re: Claudius' comments about Snyder's lack of cash.

No problem, all he needs to do is sell FedEx. The "secret" is that he has already been made an offer large enough to underwrite the new stadium.

Posted by: mikes | October 3, 2007 9:59 AM

When I moved here from the UK, the first match I went to see at RFK was an exhibition match between Barcelona and AC Milan. The stadium was packed (we could only get seats at the very back row of the very top tier), and Metro managers, in their ignorance of the sport, laid on their usual 4-car trains every 20 mins apart, meaning we had to queue for almost an hour-and-a-half after the match just to get into the station. It was a fantastic atmosphere, and a great game (that Barcelona won 2-1 if I recall correctly).

The point is, there is a spectator market here for quality soccer. Granted, it may take decades to raise the reputation of US domestic soccer to the same level, but all it takes is a willing fanbase and a high level of investment. The English Premier League was only established in the early 90s, and before then, the dream of the best domestic players was always to move to Spain or Italy. Now, there seem to be more foreigners, including some of the best players in the world, who are lured by the environment that, love it or hate it, has been made possible by the billions that has been pumped into the league.

For now, it seems to make sense to size the stadia to the appropriate proportions. I much prefer to be in a more intimate environment with an intense, passionate atmosphere, than a monolithic structure that resonates its lack of spectators. But that's not to say that soccer will always be confined to 20,000 seater-stadia. I say generate the buzz, and people will come.

Posted by: ccalgreen | October 3, 2007 10:00 AM

Its so hilarious to watch soccer fans live out their inferiority complex to other more popular sports.

I'll NEVER be a United fan after hearing all the crying by United fans and their frail attacks against baseball.

Burke's comments are correct, in a stadium with seats to spare, Nationals pull more total fans per year than the United. A LOT MORE...

One couldn't add the Redskins to that model because FedEx can't hold enough fans to meet the total demand. Any simpleton can figure out that no one can calculate the number of Redskins fans that would attend a game given a stadium of unlimited seating, which doesn't exist. You can imagine it would be pretty high though, considering they have a stadium that seats over 92K people which is completely sold out to season ticket holders, not to mention the 2 yr waiting list for season tickets. Conversely, its pretty simple math to see that the Nationals outsell the United, even though the Nationals have to sell 81 games vs. 16 games.

United fans, you are lame for bashing baseball and the other area sports. Its also comical that the other area fans, don't even know you're around, or even care what your third tier sport is doing.

Posted by: Will never be a United fan | October 3, 2007 10:27 AM

"While Fenty told me some weeks back that the demolition of RFK could happen sooner rather than later, and the United contract with the District only extends to December of this year, the city is eager to cut a deal to support a new soccer-only stadium, and the mayor struck a conciliatory tone with the Post's Dan Steinberg the other day."

Holy punctuation Batman! Please fix this disaster...

Posted by: CB | October 3, 2007 10:28 AM

A reasoned article, exceppt for the fact that AEG and McFarlane's group were the ones actively loobying congress for the release of the land, none of Fenty's other bidders did that. The time to get them involved was THEN, not NOW. What Fenty is doing sets a really bad precedent and is bad business, plain and simple. You dance with the girl what brung ya.

And As a die hard soccer fan it should be noted that I have nothing against baseball, football or any of the other sports. I wish them well.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 10:29 AM

Having been a fan of DC United since the start of MLS (and having gone to more games than I can count both here and in other states), I can say that RFK is one of my favorite stadiums. While I understand that some fans were angry when the Nats formed and used RFK because it ruined the soccer field, I respect the wishes of baseball fans in this area (my family included). I am so happy that the Nats are getting their own stadium, but I wish that United could stay at RFK because of the history of the stadium. Many MLS and international teams of stated that they love play at RFK because of the size and the crowd that comes for the games. Not all Washington area residents are ignorant of the game and many of them feel that soccer is mainstream. I also wish there was no animosity between fans of all Washington teams, no matter the sport. And once the Nats new stadium opens, maybe RFK will be saved for DC United or at least for games in the future. To destroy that stadium would be tragic to sporting and concert events in the area.

Posted by: Megan | October 3, 2007 10:32 AM

Burke: the numbers quoted were per game, not the entire season.

Duh ...

Posted by: SoMD | October 3, 2007 10:39 AM

To Will Never Be a United Fan, on behalf of all United fans I'd just like to say we're all devastated by your decision.

Posted by: Who GivesaRatsAss | October 3, 2007 10:41 AM

Well, count Fisher in with the Jim Rome's of the world, but with a smaller audience...

Most soccer fans DO have an inferiority complex, because they compare the MLS to something like the NFL. When really, all they have to do is compare the state of soccer and soccer coverage in the United States today to the state it was in 10 years ago, and they could be nothing but happy.

In 1997, having only played one season, the MLS was still a new, semi-unknown quantity. Fox Sports World was the only national english language cable channel that you could get English Soccer coverage on, and FSW wasn't even carried by all cable providers. ESPN gave soccer just about as much coverage as they gave Irish road bowling....the US MNT was covered by ESPN, but only around World Cup time. The Gold Cup (except for the final) and Copa America didn't even enter the picture.

Today with FSC, Setanta, GolTV (who am I forgetting?) we have more free EPL matches on the air in the US than you have in England, 3-4 German matches a week, Scotland, Mexico, Spain, Italy and France are all covered by at least one game per week. Not to metntion the American Minor League USL and Central/South American coverage that FSC provides. ESPN and CBS broadcast EVERY World Cup match (not just the US Men's Team). ESPN now PAYS for the rights to MLS, and we get ESPN covering UEFA Champions League matches both live and tape delayed....

MSL attendence continues to grow (though this years spike is probably mostly due to Beckham) and the league continues to expand and compete internationally.

Any fan/reporter/broadcaster who thinks soccer is stagnating or is a non entity in this country simply isn't paying attention. It's been on a slow and steady growth in this country since 1996 and isn't showing any signs of stopping.

Posted by: stonesean | October 3, 2007 10:42 AM


You are deluded. I was at the final Nationals game and while it was a fun atmosphere, the park was far from packed. The announced crowd was short of a sellout, there were thousands of no-shows and empty seats, and massive numbers of Phillies fans. I went to 15 games this year and, unfortunately, visitor fans consistently out number and out voice Nationals fans.

Compare that with the 47,000 people who attended the DC United-Galaxy game. No question most were drawn to see Beckham, but the stadium actually was packed and actually did rock. The 20,000 per game who show up at United games are far louder than any Nationals game this year.

I am a season ticket holder for both teams and look forward to the new park (hopefully parks), but to belittle soccer and DC United to support the Nationals is neither useful nor accurate.

Posted by: J | October 3, 2007 10:44 AM

to DCAustinite:

You're right about the McFarlane group lobbying congress, etc. but that is the risk that you take. Just ask Fred Malek, and all of those who preceded him in trying to bring Major League Baseball back to Washington. That list goes back to old Joe Danzansky in the early 1970s. I'm afraid that, if someone else ends up with the deal (which probably won't happen) then McFarlane simply joins a long list.

As far as NASCAR & its popularity is concerned, yeah, but... Please remember that most of its venues are only used a couple of times a year, at most. Not exactly a good use of land in an urban environment (and speaking of environment).

Horse racing????

Posted by: mikes | October 3, 2007 10:48 AM

I enjoy soccer. I enjoy hockey and college football more, and thus I have a partial plan for the Caps and season tickets for UVA football, but none of that stops me from enjoying soccer as well. I do not understand the attitude of many soccer fans who express hostility to other sports or who act as though soccer should REPLACE the other sports, instead of co-existing with them. Telling other people that the sports they enjoy are deficient is NOT the way to win support; neither is making the argument that Americans just "haven't learned to appreciate soccer" (which essentially calls Americans uneducated, and calling someone stupid is never a good way to get him to agree with you).

On the other hand, I also don't understand the attitude of many people who are not soccer fans who feel the need to ridicule people who are. Why does it matter? I don't enjoy watching the NBA, but it doesn't matter to me if other people do, since their rooting interest doesn't stop me from enjoying the sports I enjoy.

I think all of us who enjoy baseball, including baseball fans who do not watch soccer, ought to recognize that we owe DC United a bit of a debt--it is their presence that ensured that RFK survived to be the Nationals' home. Without that stadium, the Expos probably would have been sent somewhere else.

Posted by: Rich | October 3, 2007 10:51 AM

To WhoGivesaRatsAss,

I believe you, I'm sure you were able to get a hold of your fanbase that quickly, since there's like a couple dozen of you around.

I'm not surprised that United fans aren't scared to turn off other potential fans. Great attitude.

Posted by: Will never be a United fan | October 3, 2007 10:52 AM

SoMD, duh, yourself. I was making the obvious point that it's silly to compare per-game attendance for an event that happens 16 (or whatever) times per versus something that occurs 81 times per year.

How many DCU fans do you think would show up for the last game in a 3 game series against the KC Wizards? A couple thousand? Maybe?

And that's for a soccer team that's one of the best (I think -- didn't they win some championships or something) vs. a baseball team that's just now finishing out of the cellar in its three year existence.

And as far as soccer being a third tier sport -- c'mon, let's not exaggerate:

1st tier: football, baseball, basketball, NASCAR
2nd tier: golf, tennis
3rd tier: poker, ultimate fighting
4th tier: women's basketball, boxing
5th tier: soccer

Posted by: burke | October 3, 2007 10:58 AM

Soccer fans: take a deep breath. Time is on our side. It may not be happening as quickly as we'd like, but we're getting new stadia, TV deals, and better players every year. And eventually the current generation of sports writers and talking heads will retire, and we'll get guys like Steinberg and Grant Wahl in positions of power.

In the meantime, spare a thought for the Caps fans. We've got Lio-Messi-on-skates playing downtown, and yet the Caps struggle to draw 12k a game.

Posted by: mik_smith | October 3, 2007 11:05 AM


You should have stopped this after Steinberg's comments. You've extrapolated some data wrongly.

1. Don't confuse the Redskins profitability with being a model franchise. A model business sure. But we've seen all kinds of articles and heard stories about how the team is driving away fans, or bilking fans for every last dollar they have. From not allowing folks to walk from the nearby Metro station to cramming seats into every nook and cranny of Fed Ex, regardless of whether they actually have a view of the field.

2. You're misrepresenting the genesis of the Verizon Center. Abe Pollin did indeed pay for the arena out of his own pocket. But only after he was getting nowhere in getting the city to foot the bill themselves. He tried to squeeze the city for as much as he could, got nowhere and relented to doing it and it's turned out to be a glorious success for both teams and the city.

3. Mid-Tier baseball franchise? Yes the Nats are on the rise, but look at the whole organization before you call them Mid-Tier. Fourth place in the NL East doesn't warrant that moniker, yet. When it becomes commonplace that players can move from A level pro baseball to the Major Leagues, that's not Mid-Tier, that's a very shallow organization. A couple of bad injuries and this team starts looking like Tampa Bay in a hurry. How about calling it something like 'an emerging Mid-Tier' or just 'up and coming'. When I think Mid-Tier, I think of teams that are one or two players away from a good run, but don't have a large checkbook to pursue the best free agents available every year (Seattle, San Francisco, the Angels, Minnesota, Detroit, etc).

4. I was at the final RFK Nats game. In my Phillies gear. And somewhere on the order of 15-20% of the crowd was, too. It wasn't a 'packed house'. An announced crowd of 40,519...or roughly 90% capacity. Sure that's a good crowd. But there were plenty of no-shows for that game, too. The lower bowl was full but the upper deck had lots of open space.

Also, with the new ticket prices, I doubt the Nats will be drawing in as many folks. I'd love to see a game in their new place...but someone's going to need to give me tickets, they're just out of my price range for 'mid-tier' baseball.

5. But you're right that RFK doesn't work for United. The issue that folks have is witht he wording in your initial RFK obit: "The Washington Diplomats of the North American Soccer League -- their cheerleaders were the Honeydips -- lasted a bit longer, from 1974 to 1981, but, like today's D.C. United soccer squad, struggled to attract fans"

The key word is 'struggle' they don't struggle, it's just that it's hard to make money in RFK with what is close to an ideal crowd size. Your wording in this post is a better representation of the situation.

The issues with Fenty are now numerous. It's not like he's a newcomer to all of this. If he was some new Mayor from outside of the current government his wanting to see if the District is getting the maximum out of Poplar Point would be an understandable position. But he was on the City Council, and as such, had insight into the plans. Even if he didn't like what was going on, he didn't need to stand at midfield at RFK and give the 'we're looking forward to the new place across the river pep talk' (the Anthony Williams special) at United's opening game. If Fenty didn't like what Poplar Point with United was going to be like, he could have not made this abrupt change in course. He's not being forward with anyone in the District, Ward 8, or the business community on this.

Posted by: Kim | October 3, 2007 11:11 AM

Hey 'Will Never Be A United fan', you were never a potential fan, you clearly have bias and issues with soccer. And if you really bothered to look, you'd see most United fans don't say anything bad about baseball. I'm glad DC got a team, I'm glad the Redskins are doing well (well, better than last year), I like Gilbert Arenas and I love soccer. But trust me when I say I, and most United fans, have met hundreds like you, who get all pissy in a bar when we ask that one of the 7 tvs showing the baseball game be moved over to the soccer match.
I feel safe in saying you never liked soccer and you never will, so sorry if we don't care at all what you think. You can keep thinking that surely next year will be the year the MLS fails, and we'll keep growing attendance, growing tv exposure and improving the quality of league play.

Just think, 20 years from now you can tell your kid how that stupid league is gonna fail next year as he's heading out the door to a United game!

Vamos United!
Hail to the Redskins!
Some sort of Baseball Chant!

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 11:11 AM

"How many DCU fans do you think would show up for the last game in a 3 game series against the KC Wizards? A couple thousand? Maybe?"

Hmm, considering we had 25k for Toronto, which is scraping the bottom of the barrel of the league, i fail to see your point. Oh, and we played them 3 times this year.

I notice Hockey didn't even make your tier list. Caps fans, have at him!

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 11:13 AM

"Hmm, considering we had 25k for Toronto, which is scraping the bottom of the barrel of the league, i fail to see your point. Oh, and we played them 3 times this year."

I understood him as meaning a baseball-style three-game series where the three games are played in immediate temporal proximity. Not necessarily on consecutive nights because normally soccer teams don't play on consecutive nights, but not spread out through the season the way MLS games against a given opponent normally are.

Posted by: Rich | October 3, 2007 11:17 AM

In a typical three game series in baseball how many people are there for all three games? A small percentage.

Baseball rolls fan in and out of a stadium through a three game set, which is fine, it's a good working business model that keeps more fans involved.

But it's also why folks need to be careful when comparing attendance numbers between sports/leagues, it really is apples and oranges.

Regardless, can we all laugh at Florida's paltry figure (and image) when they played the Nats?

Posted by: Kim | October 3, 2007 11:24 AM

"I understood him as meaning a baseball-style three-game series where the three games are played in immediate temporal proximity. Not necessarily on consecutive nights because normally soccer teams don't play on consecutive nights, but not spread out through the season the way MLS games against a given opponent normally are"

I get that, and all I'm saying in response is that there's no meaningless games in soccer. Each one really means something, kind of like football. That is the fault of Baseball and its 162 game design. It's also one of its charms. I'm not knocking baseball, but at the same time, this is a 100+ year old league with a brand new team, you'd think there'd be no problems in drawing even to the 3rd game of a meaningless set.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 11:25 AM

Hate to break it to you but Baseball is not in decline. Get your facts straight! Baseball attendance has exploded over the last decade and once again set another record this year. While I like soccer (I watch numerous games per year) I am sick to death, like most sports fans, of soccer fans and soccer journalists trying to SHOVE it down our throats. If more Americans liked the sport more people would watch it. The fact is most people find it boring. Get over it.

Posted by: Harry | October 3, 2007 11:27 AM


Hilarious how you can even THINK to tell someone who they are, what they like, and what their experience is from one post in some crappy blog.

Safe to say that I've never liked soccer? Nevermind that I played on a club team in high school, played in our indoor league in college, and play on a friends intramural team now.

But just because I play something as a fun hobby, doesn't mean I like to watch it on TV or would spend money to go watch someone else play. I'm a great golfer, doesn't mean I watch it on TV or pay to see tournaments.

I've been invited to several United games, but was never able to make it, even though I wanted to check it out. I'll NEVER consider going to a game after hearing United bans cry and moan that their sport is better than the others and that non-United fans just aren't smart enough to enjoy soccer. I will actively let everyone I know that they should never waste their time and money on United games, due to the fans.

My bias is not against soccer, its targeted solely at United fans.

Posted by: Will never be a United fan | October 3, 2007 11:29 AM

You want to see someone being all defensive about their passion? Look no further:

"this region is home to the most profitable franchise in professional sports (the Redskins), and a new, mid-tier baseball franchise that the industry believes is poised to jump into the top ranks (in revenue, if not in field quality), and an NBA (and former NHL) owner who spent his own money to build an arena that sparked a remarkable transformation of downtown Washington"

There is more wishful thinking and half-truths in this paragraph than in the last State of the Union address.

Posted by: cpwdc | October 3, 2007 11:29 AM

"While I like soccer (I watch numerous games per year) I am sick to death, like most sports fans, of soccer fans and soccer journalists trying to SHOVE it down our throats."

Who exactly is trying to shove it down your throat? Tony Kornheiser? ESPN? I'm glad you like soccer, enjoy the game. And you can deal with the world cup hysteria every 4 years. because, you know, it's once every 4 years.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 11:29 AM

Soccer's not being shoved down anyone's throat.

Something that's being shoved down everyone's throat is poker.

Posted by: Kim | October 3, 2007 11:32 AM

"But just because I play something as a fun hobby, doesn't mean I like to watch it on TV or would spend money to go watch someone else play. "

Then don't.

"I'll NEVER consider going to a game after hearing United bans cry and moan that their sport is better than the others and that non-United fans just aren't smart enough to enjoy soccer."

this is what I mean. Most United fans here are arguing about the stadoum, not slagging baseball or any other sports, there is a lot of cross-over. But for some reason you want to see it that way, which I why I feel pretty confident in saying you are not, nor were you ever someone who could've been a United fan. Now, if ever you change your mind, get off your high horse and stop feeling so attacked and victimized by the big bad United boys, I'll be the first to buy you a ticket and a beer.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 11:33 AM

If no one cares about soccer, then why does this blog entry already have the second most comments on his entire front page within 4 hours of posting it? I'm pretty sure it will reach the top spot in an hour or two. I bet you Marc is pretty happy about all the attention. Maybe even enough to write more articles about soccer.

Posted by: Larry France | October 3, 2007 11:35 AM

DCAustinite - it is once every four years because it is actually a WORLD cup, as opposed to the hyperbole of calling the U.S. baseball title games a world series.

Posted by: cpwdc | October 3, 2007 11:36 AM

"it is once every four years because it is actually a WORLD cup, as opposed to the hyperbole of calling the U.S. baseball title games a world series."

Yeah, well, I don't get worked up about that, and neither should you. Maybe the Japanese can get worked up about it.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 11:39 AM

For Burke:

Obviously, the comment about DC United attendance only being a few thousand less than the Nationals attendance was based on a per game basis of comparison. You don't need to have the intelligence of a soccer fan to have figured that one out!

Posted by: Dsmac | October 3, 2007 11:40 AM

Doubt I'll change my mind with so many other great sports in DC, enjoy the view from my high horse, and believe me I DON'T feel threatened by crybaby / delusional United fans.

Sure, most United fans are arguing about the stadium, but there is a huge percentage that bash everything NOT soccer.

Thanks for the offer, but I'll be enjoying overpriced beer from my seat at Nationals Park.

Posted by: Will never be a United fan | October 3, 2007 11:41 AM


You wanna see a perfect recent example? Just look at the post by Dsmac.

Soccer fans are smart, baseball fans are stupid. Typical United fan...

Posted by: Will never be a United fan | October 3, 2007 11:44 AM

"Thanks for the offer, but I'll be enjoying overpriced beer from my seat at Nationals Park."

Enjoy it, maybe we'll bump into each other.

"Sure, most United fans are arguing about the stadium, but there is a huge percentage that bash everything NOT soccer."

A huge percentage? This from somebody who admittedly has NEVER BEEN TO A GAME. Clearly sir, you are an expert on United fans and I must defer to your wealth of knowledge.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 11:48 AM


You wanna see a perfect recent example? Just look at the post by Dsmac.

Soccer fans are smart, baseball fans are stupid. Typical United fan...

And I could argue as a typical reactionary traditional fan you're overreacting to a percieved slight. The internet is not known for subtlety and nuance, dude.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 11:50 AM


When the heck have 47,000 people bought tickets to a poker game?

Or an Ultimate Fighting match in the United States? I'm about as big a Vanderlei Silva fan as there is, but get real...

Posted by: stonesean | October 3, 2007 11:52 AM

Also, your call name is 'Will Never Be a United fan' for God's sake! What did you expect, hand holding, apologies for offending the gods of other sports, along with desperate pleas to win you back? Quite frankly, considering that, the response has been pretty tame and despite attempts to turn this into a baseball vs. soccer thread, somewhat civil.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 11:53 AM

You're right, I should qualify that its a huge percentage of United fans on Post blogs that bash non-soccer fans.

I've had some convo's with United fans outside of these forums, much of the same experience. "We're just more refined and intellectual than the rest of you non-soccer fans who just haven't figured it out yet."

Posted by: Will never be a United fan | October 3, 2007 11:54 AM

"all I'm saying in response is that there's no meaningless games in soccer."

This is exactly my point. The Nats still draw 18k for the last game of a meaningless series, even if it's a 1:00PM getaway game on a weekday against an inferior team.

Soccer (around here) doesn't have anywhere near that drawing power, so it's just meaningless to compare the per-game attendance and say that it's "within a few thousand". Apples and oranges.

Posted by: burke | October 3, 2007 11:57 AM

Fisher writes "That doesn't justify a giveaway by the city to a proposal that has not been tested against the market."

Earlier, it could be argued that Fisher was simply unaware of the facts. But now, that excuse can't be deployed; he's simply dissembling. He repeatedly ignores the fact that the land wouldn't be the District's to decide what to do with if United's former owners hadn't done the heavy lifting with Congress to get the transfer passed, as part of a deal between United and the District. Fenty's change of course amounted to reneging on a deal after United had done its part by arranging for the District to obtain the land. Fisher has been made aware of the facts here multiple times. He chooses to present things in a light that contradicts those facts. That reflects poorly on the Post's journalistic integrity.

Posted by: Chris Metzler | October 3, 2007 11:58 AM

Yeah, well, I'm sorry for your experience. There are crappy fans in every sport. I've been around people who love football and bash baseball as boring, or hockey as hard to see on tv or basketball as meaningless until the last 2 minutes, and yet not one of them claims 'basketball is shoving it down our throats', 'basketball is a girl's sport' and 'hockey fans think they're so much smarter'. I don't understand the vitriol soccer produces in some people. there is plenty of room for all sports. We just want our stadum, which we're paying por ourselves.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 11:59 AM

" Soccer (around here) doesn't have anywhere near that drawing power, so it's just meaningless to compare the per-game attendance and say that it's "within a few thousand". Apples and oranges."

And that means we shouldn't be allowed to build our own 30k stadium and pay for it ourselves why?

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 12:01 PM

Will Never Be a United Fan,

So some bad experiences with United fans and some online squabbles keeps you (a soccer player) from attending what is probably the best sporting experience in DC?

I just dont get it. You are an adult and should know that your interactions with DCU fans are not indicative of a 30,000/40,000+ fanbase, right? And, honestly, who cares if a bunch of United fans hate baseball? We arent all going to agree on everything.

You seem to make a decision about attending DCU games based on something pretty insignificant and petty. So, you dont like some of the fans. There are plenty I dont like either, but its about supporting your local club and having a good time.

Posted by: the cheat | October 3, 2007 12:04 PM

The Cheat says:
"You seem to make a decision about attending DCU games based on something pretty insignificant and petty. So, you dont like some of the fans. There are plenty I dont like either, but its about supporting your local club and having a good time. "

I agree. I don't like the cheat. I mean, come on, he cheats!

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 12:06 PM

DCAustinite: huh? Where did I say you're not entitled to build a 30k stadium and pay for it yourself?

This is mistake you soccer fanatics seem to make often: you assume people who don't care about soccer are hostile to it. If DCU can build a new soccer stadium and pay for it, more power to them.

Posted by: burke | October 3, 2007 12:13 PM

You all are missing a point. I have been to all of these sports in the last 2 years. Only the Redskins have all the tickets sold (althoug certainly not all are used). They are all sold and so can only be bought through the wait list, e-bay, or scalpers. Consequently, Snyder gives little thought to the gameday experience. He doesn't care if I come back, I wasn't the season ticket holder and can be easily replaced by someone else. Basketball is getting to be the same way. It is the "lower tier" status of baseball, soccer, and hockey that causes the teams/owners to NEED us, make it easy and relatively affordable to get tickets, and have a good time at the event. If and when any of these sports become as popular as football, there will be no more discounted tickets, no more giveaways and promotions, no more outside food (already gone from Verizon Center) etc etc. I love football, but I only go if someone gives me a free ticket. I have Caps tickets because they seem to actually want me there. United fans, enjoy this while it lasts!

Posted by: didnik | October 3, 2007 12:17 PM

"DCAustinite: huh? Where did I say you're not entitled to build a 30k stadium and pay for it yourself?"

It's not always about you, dude. That's kida what this post is about, the soccer stadium, RFK, poplar point. Ring a bell? And I am a sports fanatic. As a Texas Longhorn I am obliged to love football.

The problem with you is that you want to pidgeonhole people, IE: I am a soccer fanatic, a HUUUUUGE percentage of United supporters are jerks, etc. Get over yourself. Don't go to a game or go to a game, I really don't care, but why exactly are you posting here? To tell me and people like me that we're jerks? Or that maybe we're a bit touchy about our sport? What do you want, an apology? Fine, I'm sorry you don't like United fans, now get on with your life.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 12:19 PM

Why not use the stadium that already exists (RFK) for soccer instead of wasting all the resources needed for any new construction? It's servicable, convenient, and people like it. Leave it the heck alone.

Posted by: ellocin1 | October 3, 2007 12:23 PM

Just, for a second, imagine somebody wrote an article 2 years ago that said "10 years after Redskins leave it's so long to RFK" and then proceeded to mention the history and then in the last stanza said "Oh, and The senators still play there, I think. remeber the old senators? They had cheerleaders."

Wouldn't you be a little peeved at that guy?

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 12:25 PM

"Why not use the stadium that already exists (RFK) for soccer instead of wasting all the resources needed for any new construction? It's servicable, convenient, and people like it. Leave it the heck alone."

That's easy:
1. it's falling apart.
2. United doesn't own it. Can't make money at it, Baseball had that same problem.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 12:26 PM

I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and relax. We can all co-exist, no need to bash each other. Each sport is unique, and will have their die-hards. Remember though that die-hards do represent the entire fanbase. I would say that the majority of United Fans do not hate other sports. Soccer fans get agitated b/c they perceive a lack of respect for the sport from the national media. I think Wilbon said it the best during the Galaxy game, that MLS should not try to shove the sport down the throat of the general public, but instead, focus on the soccer fans who root for European and South American teams and lure them to MLS. With that said, my wish is that all major Washington area sports much success now and in the future.

Posted by: DC United Fan | October 3, 2007 12:26 PM

burke and Will Never Be a United Fan - please settle a bet for me.

Are either of you DC residents?

Posted by: Riz | October 3, 2007 12:27 PM


Are you one of those people who cant admit to being wrong? Or making a mistake? You obviously choose the wrong word to describe DC United attendance, but cant seem to get around to admitting it. Steinberg has pretty much destroyed your arguments based on numbers and context, but yet you still cling to your tired arguments like a shipwreck victim hanging on to a piece of driftwood.

Posted by: the cheat | October 3, 2007 12:28 PM

I meant die-hards no represent the entire fansbase. I apologize for the typo

Posted by: DC United Fan | October 3, 2007 12:28 PM

It's important to remember that the basis of the sniping between Nats and DCUnited fans begins with RFK -- it was being used as the home of DC United, and then suddenly it was shared with the Nationals. What's worse, the adjustments to the field don't affect the Nationals games, but the replacement pitch atop the baseball diamond does affect the flow and playability of soccer. We'd hear the same gripes if baseball and football shared a spot.

But the baseline is that that kind of introduction of a new franchise to an established franchise (as much as you can have with a league as young as the MLS) with a winning track record, is a mild slap in the face -- as if to say, "your team and your facilities are not as important as ours."

Add to that the track record of DCU -- there's pride attached to: 4 MLS cup championships (1996, 1997, 1999, 2004), US Open cup (1996), CONCACAF Champions Cup (1998), Interamerican Cup (1998). So *of course* DC United fans feel the team is entitled to some respect -- they deserve it.

The Nationals have not proven that they deserve the same respect. This kind of defensiveness will always arise when the winningest franchise in the city's history is relegated to subordinate status because of a lack of media coverage (which leads directly to fan support and attendance).

Posted by: furious george | October 3, 2007 12:32 PM

UFC killed Boxing. Hockey is next. MLS needs to get some more big name players (Zidane, etc). The quality of the soccer has dropped significantly since 1996 in MLS (Valerdama, Harkes, etc). If Beckham plays a full season next year, MLS will definetely get a boost. Most people go NAT's games to cheer for the visitors. See METS, Yankees, Red Sox.

Posted by: Hunter | October 3, 2007 12:32 PM

Fisher still not bothering to fact check...Cowboys are now #1 most profitable franchise in the world.

Again, it must be nice to be paid to be a professional internet troll, Marc. I hope you're enjoying the boost in popularity to this otherwise middling WaPo blog that soccer fans are providing due to your ability to tell half a story (and tell it poorly at that).

Posted by: Where is the Ombudsman? | October 3, 2007 12:35 PM

For the record, I bash the Nationals because I'm an Orioles fan, not because I'm a United fan.

Posted by: Goose | October 3, 2007 12:35 PM

"The quality of the soccer has dropped significantly since 1996 in MLS (Valerdama, Harkes, etc). '

watch a tape from the 96 season, you'll see that the opposite is true. Those were some great players, but the players around them were total crap. Thor Lee? Mario Gori? The baseline MLS player has gotten a lot better since then. And guys like Gomez, Emilio, DeRosario and Angel ain't half bad.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 12:37 PM

Mario Gori crap? Hardly...

Posted by: Chico | October 3, 2007 12:43 PM


DC resident for last 4 yrs.

If you're a die-hard fan, should what the national media matter? Does that change the experience you get on gameday? If the national media is saying soccer is a low-tier sport, sounds pretty fair to me...

Posted by: Will never be a United fan | October 3, 2007 12:46 PM

Hey Goose,

Hope you enjoyed the Nationals better record this year.

Posted by: Yeah! | October 3, 2007 12:48 PM

I'm curious where "Will never be a United fan" places me. I like baseball and soccer. Does that mean I think I'm smarter then myself? Paging Doctor Freud!!!!!!

Posted by: Larry France | October 3, 2007 12:51 PM

"Hope you enjoyed the Nationals better record this year."

And the year before. And the year before that. And that's with no payroll. Gonna get ugly for the Angelos next year. Ummm, "uglier".

Posted by: burke | October 3, 2007 12:53 PM

"If the national media is saying soccer is a low-tier sport..."

If it's such a low tier sport, why must the national media bring attention to that fact? AhhhhhHHHHhhhhaaaa.

In all seriousness, it's on par with hockey. It will never be baseball, football, basketball. But then, it doesn't have to be to justify stadiums, news coverage, etc. I doubt anybody is saying otherwaise, so why must reporters dust out the typrewriter once every three months to trash it? Why are they so threatened?

Posted by: Confuscious | October 3, 2007 12:53 PM

I think by "model franchise" Steinberg means a winning franchise that is viewed by the rest of the league as being a leader in making smart decisions. A good example would be the NFL's Patriots. For the last 10 years, DC United have been the New England Patriots of MLS, but without the cheating.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the Skins, the Nats, the Wiz, the Caps. But over the past 10 years, which of these franchises have won more league championships or made more smarter personnel decisions than DC United? I wish I could say all of them. But the right answer is: None of them.

Posted by: Florida | October 3, 2007 12:53 PM

Soccer is going to be the #1 sport in the U.S. I don't really care whether that happens, but it's a fact that it will. That's why United fans get so much crap from Redskins and Nationals fans. Soccer is the #1 sport in the world, and the younger generations in this country have grown up with it. No reason for it not to stick, and United's ever increasing ticket sales back this up.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 3, 2007 1:09 PM

Yeah! Soccer will be #1 in the US! And the best players in the world will come here! And the games will be free! And everyone will have cotton candy and play along chocolate rivers!

Posted by: Delusional United Fan | October 3, 2007 1:15 PM

Well, Delusional United Fan, we already do play along a river in the Chocolate City with a marshmellow center and a graham cracker crust of corruption. Not too far off..

Posted by: Bloomingdale, DC | October 3, 2007 1:19 PM

I'm a huge DC United fan but I also agree with Will Never be a United Fan.

I'm not supportive of other fans who tear down fans of other sports and tell them how great their sport is.

The last thing I want to see at a DC United game is hardcore Baseball fans yelling at me to sit down during a free kick or hard core football fans complaining for most of the game about the lack of scoring.

DC United is perfect as it is with the fan base that we have. I think the only thing a majority of the fans want is a good place to play. And a majority of the fans support other teams in other sports.

This isn't a debate over if Putin should be allowed to be PM of Russia, its entertainment, and I think every American is capable of deciding what sports they like and dislike.

Posted by: Southeasterner | October 3, 2007 1:27 PM

Can you say Reston United? or Dulles United? FedEx United?

Note to DC United - forget about DC - it is a dying city with too may political problems and they can't get out of their own way.

Mr. Cooke saw it all those years ago.

Posted by: bobF | October 3, 2007 1:41 PM

Southeasterner, actually it's about Marc Fisher's article in the Post. He has deftly managed to twist things around. Most United fans have no problem with the Nationals, our problem was with his article. He has (intentionally?) turned this into a pissing match between fanbases.

Posted by: Larry France | October 3, 2007 1:45 PM

from the DC United blog:

There are sports for everyone. If you are passionate about the game you're watching, you attend a DC United match. If you like music played throughout the game, you go to see the Wizards. If you like fights between players, you go to a Caps game. If you like fights between drunk fans, you head to FedEx. If you like to catch up on sleep, you buy Nats tickets.

See, everyone is happy!


sums it all up!

Posted by: lover | October 3, 2007 1:45 PM


You perfectly sum up what today's United fan is, a hater.

Posted by: Will never be a United fan | October 3, 2007 1:50 PM

I think they should move the new soccer stadium out to Herndon/Reston/Loudon county. The blacks dont support the team. Marion Barry was opposed to it, now he flip flops because he has nothing else to do.

Posted by: NotASpearChucker | October 3, 2007 1:51 PM

For the record, NotASpear.... is an asshat and not a DCUnited supporter.
In fact, it wouldn't suprise me if this joker was trying to work a little sabotage magic.

Posted by: m | October 3, 2007 1:59 PM

Dear Will never blah blah blah - Not sure how you made that leap to a group of haters. I have been to all the top flight sporting events (Skins season tickets, Wiz, Nats etc) in the area so I know what I am talking about. It is impossible to take your posts seriously since you have never been to a United match. Out of all the events the United matches are far and away the best. So why don't you come see one? chicken j/k.

Posted by: Lover | October 3, 2007 2:02 PM

Will Never Be A United Fan:

All I have to say is, thank god for that. You are likely one who follows trends, stays mainstream, jumps on board when something become ridiculously popular. The "in crowd" kind. You seem to embody all the things a typical, main stream, fairweather sportsfan encompass.

Its funny that you say Soccer fans have an inferiority complex, when clearly, you have demonstrated here, that it is actually you that have some sort of inferiority complex / need to "fit in". You have provided some great entertainment for us all here today. Keep up the great work! *rolls eyes*

Im a diehard Caps fan, and have been such for 30 seasons now, and I can tell you first hand, that Capitals fans have been fighting this very same fight, replete with disparging remarks made about the sport of hockey, and directly, about Capitals fans as a whole, by local sports media personalites.

I have always loved soccer, since my father took me to Dips games in the late 70's and early 80's. I have been a dedicated United supporter since day 1 in 1995, when DC was awarded an MLS franchise.

The problem isnt with other sports, at least for me, its with the media's treatment of soccer. Being a fan of multiple sports, I can definately see the difference in coverage. I dislike basketball, it just doesnt do anything for me, however I dont chide it or hate it for what it is. In fact, I dont have anything against any other sport, at all. Again, its the media's perception, that "no one cares" about soccer that is the root of the problem. The original article by Mr. Fisher exemplifies just exactly that mind set. United was barely an afterthought in his comments, which leaves one with the impresson that "no one cares", which is baseless, unfounded, and completely and totally incorrect. Thus, I can understand the reaction of Soccer / United supporters to such slights.

United isnt the only one suffering from this "attitude" that seems to be in the majority of the professional sports journalists pool. The Capitals largely suffer the same exact thing. Ive seen it for 30 years now, and continue to see it. Admitedly, it has gotten wors for the Caps since the NHL's labour debacle, and subsequent cancellation of a season.

That attitude and mindset of people such as yourself, and those who complain that 1 or 2 TV's of 45 TV's in any given sportsbar are turned to a soccer match instead of , that no one cares, etc and so on, is only reinforced by the very lack of acknowledgement by most of the profesionall journalisim pool.

Make no mistake, I, and many other United supporters enjoy many other sports as well. My closet is a testiment to that as there are 4 Redskins, 3 Nats, 12 Caps, 6 United jersey's hanging in it. It isnt the other sports we take issue with, it is the media's seeming unwillingness to recognise our sport, soccer, for the legitimate, and ever growing in popularity, sport, that it is.

This isnt about Sport Vs Sport, not by a long shot, and for those who think it is, well maybe you are the ones that truly have some sort of inferiority complex. If you didnt, you wouldnt feel threatened by soccer, and you wouldnt feel the need to bother posting to anything soccer related now would you? Likely not.

I personally am very comfortable in the knowldge of soccer's current place, and its future, which is very very bright. If i wasnt, then I guess I would spend time going after every writer that bashes it, or any sport that I love, for that matter, which to me, is a complete wast of time and energy.

Oh and BTW, Mr. Fisher, Et Al: United is after a 27,000 seat stadium, not a 20,000 seat stadium.

Posted by: DCF_UCF | October 3, 2007 2:03 PM

i'm thinking "NotASpearChucker" has issues?

I vote that post get removed.....

Posted by: wow | October 3, 2007 2:03 PM

Hey Bloomingdale Dc, don't forget about our weekly "Whine About Non-DC United Teams" meet-up at Big Bear. ;-)

Posted by: Riz | October 3, 2007 2:04 PM

Posted by: test | October 3, 2007 2:09 PM

When the best American male athletes compete against impossible odds to become professional Soccer Players, then maybe Soccer will rise above, I dunno, Professional Lacrosse - and don't knock Lacrosse, it's a beautiful game......

There are incredible amounts of cash involved in College Football, College Hoops and, of course, the NFL, MLB and the NBA - cash that will protect its own interests.

If you want an indication of the future, look nationwide at attendance figures for HS Football vs. HS Soccer or Minor League Baseball vs. Professional Soccer....

Posted by: BR549 | October 3, 2007 2:15 PM

There is only one difference between soccer attendance and other professional sports attendance.

Some people who go to games are spectators, some people are fans. The fans not only watch the game, they participate in it. Soccer has a much higher percentage of fans than most professional sports. If you want to see fans in football or basketball, go to a college game.

Posted by: H. Kemp | October 3, 2007 2:34 PM

we are supporters, not fans.

Fans are used to cool a room on a hot day.

Posted by: um | October 3, 2007 2:37 PM

"You perfectly sum up what today's United fan is, a hater."

Wow. Serious lack of a sense of humor. If you cant take jokes about your sport, dont even bother trying to talk to people. My brother (a few better soccer player than me in his prime) makes jokes all the time about diving and the "cold spray". He's a big NASCAR guy, and I rib him too. Its all fun and games...

What isnt is Marc Fischer's repeated journalistic swipes at DC United and its fanbase. And Marc has come to represent every smug baseball fan who doesnt just dislike soccer...and actively works against it by writing crap like "DC United's struggling attendance/fanbase".

Posted by: the cheat | October 3, 2007 2:37 PM

This thread just makes me sad.

The idea that United is "struggling" at the gate because they play in a big stadium is sort of silly-- the only struggle United has is trying to build a new stadium. When they are selling out games in Poplar Point or wherever with the *exact same average*, would they still be "struggling"? Just silly logic.

But c'mon United fans-- I know it's just a minority of you, but there's no need to bash baseball, football or whatever. I *love* sports in general, and I think it's too bad when anyone is closed to what's great about each of them.

Posted by: TwistedTidings | October 3, 2007 2:45 PM

"But c'mon United fans-- I know it's just a minority of you, but there's no need to bash baseball, football or whatever. I *love* sports in general, and I think it's too bad when anyone is closed to what's great about each of them."

Shouldn't this be directed at Marc Fisher? He instigated the entire thing by "bashing" another sport. And he is the one who is "closed to what's great about" soccer.

Posted by: Larry France | October 3, 2007 2:48 PM

Lest we forget Marc Fisher is the one who once said soccer was the favorite sport of Osama Bin Laden which of course makes any person's comments here about baseball being boring pale in comparison. I may not find baseball interesting but I don't suggest you're a terrorist for watching it. See why some soccer fans might be a little touchy in this forum?

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 2:59 PM

"I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and relax. We can all co-exist, no need to bash each other. Each sport is unique, and will have their die-hards. Remember though that die-hards do represent the entire fanbase. I would say that the majority of United Fans do not hate other sports."


Posted by: Juan-John | October 3, 2007 2:59 PM


Honestly couldn't care less because I am more into United. :D

Posted by: Goose | October 3, 2007 3:02 PM

I'm a serious sport, played by professionals, followed by billions of devoted fans, worthy of the same sympathetic treatment other sports receive. Don't hate me because there wasn't a professional league here in the US when you were a kid. Don't hate me because the US isn't a powerhouse. Don't hate me because DC United doesn't make money like the Yankees or Redskins. Respect me for what I am. I'm a serious sport, played by serious men, watched by serious fans.

Posted by: The Sport Called Soccer | October 3, 2007 3:03 PM

Wow, that's pretty good, albeit somewhat impossible, given RFK's capacity.

It's exploiting the gap between "somewhat impossible" and impossible that makes a true champion.

Posted by: Donald Trump | October 3, 2007 3:04 PM


Is it sweeps week equivalent this week in Blogland? Trying to pull in some extra readership talking [trash] about soccer. Well you got me to read two posts in a row. Thank the Bogman.

Posted by: plc | October 3, 2007 3:22 PM

Come on. The Nats have no "drawing" power. They're 25th out of 30 in their league. This three year old team were bested by the miserable Orioles, who - in an all-out fan revolt and imploding for the last two months and in in one fewer game - outdrew the Nats by 200,000.

You might as well say that the Nats have more drawing power than the Skins, because it would take a stadium larger than two Ann Arbors (250K) packed for 8 games to EQUAL the Nats pathetic attendance figure (just under 2 mil). And no one seriously thinks that the Nats have more drawing power than the Skins, who are 1st in attendance in their league.

Whereas, DC United, even as a "fifth tier" team, is 2nd in attendance and almost equals the pathetic per game attendance of the Nats.

And for the record ... Orioles fan who likes to watch some soccer, and wouldn't mind the Nats if it weren't for the pathetic "fans" who apparently aren't going to the games, but trumpet their "drawing power."

Posted by: Noel | October 3, 2007 3:39 PM

Soccer is up and denying it. And the other sports are threatened by it. Only reason United Fans defend it so much, is it gets trashed by media on the internet and radio (just listen to sports talk radio) with people who are only pro Football and Baseball. I know MLS quality is OK, but it is growing, and once more and more quality players come, the attendance will grow and grow. Within 20 years, it will surpass Baseball and Football. Even Wilbon admitted it has already surpassed Hockey in this area...

Posted by: EMP | October 3, 2007 3:47 PM

Oh. Oreos fan, are you Noel? That would explain the bitterness. Three years of having an inferior record to the Nats, and it's just gonna get worse when the Nats move into the new park and have a real payroll. And we're nearly outdrawing your O's already in the rundown heap that's RFK. Owie.

Posted by: burke | October 3, 2007 4:01 PM

oh SNAP!

Posted by: adams morgan | October 3, 2007 4:03 PM

Correction, I meant to say surpass Baseball and Hockey. Football is on a different tier than any league in the US...

Posted by: EMP | October 3, 2007 4:06 PM

College football > NFL.

Posted by: ahokie | October 3, 2007 4:14 PM

burke, what would your record be if you played in the American League? Any kind of power ranking that uses strength of schedule would have the Orioles would ranked higher then the Nationals. And I think you're kinda missing the point anyway. If you're not gonna make the playoffs, then it's better to be as low in the standings as possible. You get higher draft picks and you're higher on the waiver wires. If you want to brag about a 3 game difference, then so be it. Both teams stink and neither deserves any praise.

(But I'm not posting about this anymore. I want to keep this devoted to United.)

Posted by: Larry France | October 3, 2007 4:14 PM

Everyone will say that their own favorite sport is better than any other sport. Duh, that's what "favorite" means. Reading people arguing about calling each others' sport inferior is laughable (and 10 minutes of my life I'll never get back dammit!)

Soccer is my favorite sport, in fact it's my the soccer industry is where I make my living. That said, I have no need to trash another sport. What gets me defensive about the quality of the sport is when soccer is trashed overall by those who don't like it.

They try to make an argument that the sport sucks, yet it's the most popular sport in the world - at least 3-fold, if not 10-fold. It's OK if you don't like soccer, and that your favorite sport is baseball. that's great. But when you try to belittle soccer lovers by trying to make a point that we love a lost cause, that's just ignorance... How can 2 BILLION people be wrong?

We don't need you to support our team. But we would like you not to sabotage our efforts to get a fair share of the attention in the media and resources from the government. That's just jealousy. Almost like you're afraid to have the light shone on the sport for fear American will catch up with the rest of the world.

I recommend everyone reads two books (I have no connection with them at all). SoccerHead, and How Soccer Explains the World. Both take a serious look at a lot of the issues that have been touched on here.

And finally, if any soccer-haters out there dare to give it a try, spend the cost of parking at a Redskins game on a ticket to a United playoff game this Fall. The stadium will be packed, and remind you of when the Skins used to rock the house. Walk up to anyone on the "loud side" and tell them it's your first game and you'd like to see what everyone says you're missing. You'll likely get a free beer or two, and possibly have a new best friend.

Posted by: HummerSport | October 3, 2007 4:15 PM

DCU's stadium plan has a base number of 27,000 seats. Not 20,000. Also numerous times it has been said that the max capacity of the stadium will be 35,000. Get your facts straight.

Also, I am a die-hard United fan, but I also love the Skins, and most every other franchise in the DC area. I attend alot of games for each team. So I guess that ruins your little pigeon-hole idea that all United fans hate all other teams.... oh and furthermore if I had to choose which franchise in the DC area was the best run, given it's resources. Hands down it would go to United. How can you even mention the Redskins. I love em', but for crying out loud they haven't been a true contender in nearly two decades.

Posted by: Chris | October 3, 2007 4:17 PM

L7: Nascar in DC? Are you nuts? Where are you going to put a track away from navel-gazing namby-pamby nosy nabes who complain about dogs and wind chimes to their local ANCs?

Posted by: Tuchas | October 3, 2007 4:39 PM

Full disclosure: I love soccer. It's by far my favorite spectator sport. Love football and basketball. Baseball bores the hell out of me.

(As an aside: IMO, American sports have been utterly ruined by years of concessions to sponsors. Just as an example, I can't understand how anyone can sit through a football game. The game clock is one hour, there's actually about 15 minutes of action, and a televised game takes three to four hours to complete thanks to the constant momentum-killing commercial breaks. TIVO saved the sport for me. With it I can watch a game in about 25 minutes, 10 of which is spent skipping commercials and dead time between plays.)

DC United is my team, and Fisher's comments irritate me, but I find it sort of hilarious that Nats, Wizards, and DCU fans are in here arguing over how this and that attendance figure indicates that their team is the most popular.

This is Redskins country, my friends. You could drop DCU, the Nationals, the Caps, the entire University of Maryland, and Marc Fisher into a black hole and approximately 1% of the sports fans in this area would notice. And this is after 15 years of the Redskins playing the most boring, mediocre football imaginable. If the Redskins announced they would move back to the city only if they could play at the exact site of Nationals Ballpark, the only debate in the city would be over who gets to push the button to demolish the baseball stadium.

Posted by: Ash | October 3, 2007 4:45 PM

I'll say it just because the words have already been placed in our (soccer fan's) mouths: Baseball is not a sport. Period. It's a game, a pastime. Yes, you can be an athlete and play Baseball, but playing Baseball does not make you an athlete.

I grew up playing baseball, and going to Oriole's games. After about 11, I realized how utterly boring it was to stand around the field for 9 innings, and I played 2nd or shortstop most of the time. How can it be a sport, if you can lead a sedentary lifestyle, and still compete? I guess that's just the American way; fat and lazy.

Flame away, I probably get more *stuff* thrown my way from fellow United supporters than anyone here could possibly equal.

For the record, American Football is the 4th most popular code of Football in the World, doesn't mean I'm not a huge Redskins fan either, that's just where "we" as Football fans fall in comparison to the rest of the World.

1. Association Football aka Soccer
2. Rugby Football (Union)
3. Rugby Football (League)
4. American Football
5. Australian Rules Football

Posted by: AlecW81 | October 3, 2007 4:50 PM

That's kinda my point, Burke. Nats are doing better record wise, the O's suck, the Nats are new .... and you still can't equal Baltimore's attendance. And all you ever say is - wait until we get our new stadium! Then we'll have money, and we can afford better players! Then we'll show you.

Where the hell are the additional 1,620,000 fans coming from? Are they sitting in their houses going - RFK is too much of a dump for us to go to now, but just wait until the new stadium opens.

And you want fans like that?

The last three years has seen declining attendance, and the level of support is more comparable to the Devil Rays than, say, the Rockies or DBacks in their first three years. For example, average in the inaugural season -
DRays 30,942
Nats 33,651
Marlins 37,838
DBacks 44,571
Rockies 55,350

And may I remind you, Colorado opened up at Mile High and played there for a few years. Hmmmm. New ball team, playing in a football mad city, in a football stadium - and they are a good 20,000 average attendance more than the Nats. The second year they more than double the Nats' second year attendance.

Interestingly enough, of these five teams, the highest is Colorado this year at #19 with an average 28,978, followed closely by Arizona at #20 with an average 28,598. Welcome to your real future.

I thought y'all were baseball starved.

The fact that DC United as a "fifth tier league" - someone else's words, not mine, is on average a few thousand below a new franchise in the blush of their honeymoon, well....

Posted by: Noel | October 3, 2007 4:50 PM

Ash: The Redskins only "hold" our attention because Snyder PAYS THE MEDIA to foist his product on us. There are Redskins stores. Redskins TV. Redskins Internet. There's that paid score service in the seats that you have to pay extra to buy. Snyder bought out all of the independent Redskins fan magazines or threatened them.

I ignore the corporation of the Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons.

Posted by: Disagree | October 3, 2007 4:52 PM

Well, I also thought the legitimacy of a sport was directly related to the level of physical fitness required to participate and be competitive in it. I'll just leave it at that.

Posted by: bkp | October 3, 2007 4:53 PM

"Where the hell are the additional 1,620,000 fans coming from? Are they sitting in their houses going - RFK is too much of a dump for us to go to now, but just wait until the new stadium opens."

Well, apparently that's what happened in B'more.

The O's averaged about 30k in the their last 3 seasons at Memorial Stadium. They averaged around 45k their first 7 seasons at Camden Yards. And that's for a franchise with a much deeper recent history than the Nats to build a fan base from.

You sure you're an O's fan? Seems like you'd be more familiar with the effect a new stadium can have on attendance.

Posted by: burke | October 3, 2007 5:06 PM

I still hear crying from United fans that are anti-everything that isn't soccer. The million replies to this chain just goes to show how sensitive United fans are. This chain was supposed to be about the stadium, wasn't it? You guys totally missed the point because two Nats fans pushed your buttons, and you scrambled to defend yourself with weak excuses such as: you're dumb, you're not real athletes, our attendance is just as good (its not), and baseball is decling (its not, look it up.)

Thicken your skin United fans. If you were so confident about MLS being so up and coming, you wouldn't have even addressed this tangent thread.

Posted by: Cry cry | October 3, 2007 5:12 PM

And Baltimore's 30K after a completely abysmal year beats the Nats 28K, including their inaugural season. And in a completely different era where 3million was a mark of distinction, not de rigeur.

Baltimore's 7 years of attendance has less to do with a new stadium effect and more to do with the fact that they were playing decently in the early and mid 90s, and Cal Ripken was going for the streak. Take a look at attendance rates for practically every other new stadium:
Tigers - 30K, 24K, 18K
Philly - 40K, 33K, 34K
Reds - 29K, 28K, 24K
Milwaukee - 34K, 24K, 20K
Pittsburgh - 30K, 23K, 20K

Seattle started off just below 40K, climbed to 43K for a couple years, and then have plummeted to around 30-32K the last two years.

Cleveland is similar to Baltimore, but even that bottomed out 21K in 2003, and despite winning the division this year are only +1400 avg better than Baltimore.

SF is similar to Baltimore as well, but has seen attendance trend slightly down since PacBell opened, from the + side of 40K to just below. What will it do now that Barry is gone?

St. Louis has enjoyed a high attendance for years - upper 30K since 1998.

Houston is similar to SL, but less so. Low to mid 30s bottoming out in 2003, going back into the last couple of years at the Astrodome.

There is no huge new stadium effect. It's true that there is generally an upswing the first year (how large depends on how bad the team was to begin with), but then it falls back down drastically, sometimes to the same attendance figures as the old stadium. The thing that seems to propel attendance is actually ... playing good baseball.

So.... The Nats have no draw; they may gain some next year, but they will likely fall back down again. Compare to DC United, which has built a fan base that lags behind the Nats, but comparatively is a lot healthier for its league.

Posted by: Noel | October 3, 2007 6:16 PM

The reason soccer fans are so defensive is because they've had to endure years of snide comments by fans of "mainstream" sports hel*bent on denegrating the Beautiful Game. It's a reflexive defensiveness that doesn't serve soccer fans well, but is unfortunately understandable given the history.

Posted by: Brian | October 3, 2007 6:55 PM


I'm sorry, but you can't possibly know anything about this region's sports fans if you believe that the interest in the Redskins is simply a product of Snyder's marketing. DC's love of the Redskins precedes Snyder by decades. If anything, I would expect Snyder's reign to have driven people away, with its endless mediocrity and incredibly high prices. Yet the fans come back every year with the same intensity. There aren't many franchises in any sport that can make that claim.

DC United is another one, BTW. Their attendance has stayed high (in MLS terms) even in their bad years (most notably 2000-2002).

Posted by: Ash | October 3, 2007 7:00 PM

Someone made a comment about NASCAR being in DC. A few years ago, there was some sort of race car event here. It was near RFK, very loud and the organizers made the decision not to ever return to DC because they had been fined so much money for violating the noise laws. This , of course, after the mayor had offered city money, and labor to bulid a track that would never be used again. I say that DC United should get to build their stadium. They're offering to use their own money and it will be good for the city.


Posted by: Kat | October 3, 2007 7:18 PM

Well as a soccer fan I must admit sometimes we might start picking at other sports when we are being attacked by this reporters who have nothing better to do than stir up the pot. I am a huge fan of sports and each sport I love in its own way. However I choose DC United as my heart and soul. It sickens me that these writers and tv newscasts never mention us when we are drawing close to 20k per game where as you see WNBA,Hockey, Basketball shown all the time. other fans need to put themselves in our position, what If you cared about a sport so much and you had people cleary not reporting write and completly forgetting about DC UNITED (soccer). It would be like the Wizards moving to another arena and saying ok the MCi Center is closing. How would Caps fans react or the Mystics,etc. It is the reporters responsibilities to do thier job and investigate before they report. You can not compare FOOTBALL with FUTBOL, that is like comparing apples and oranges. Please STOP Comparing, each sport is diffrent and many fans love both or one or the other or perhaps don'y even watch either.

Posted by: SOCCER IS MY LIFE | October 3, 2007 8:46 PM

Cry cry: No, the length of this blog only goes to show that the soccer fans are great in numbers and truly passionate about their sport.

As opposed to the 2 other ingrate middle-aged guys talking about boreball.

Posted by: Soccer power | October 3, 2007 9:18 PM

RFK is a great venue to watch soccer. I sat upstairs to watch them beat Chivas, a storied Mexican team. Its not economically feasible in the long term for DC United, but for fans, its not a bad venue. You make some good points, but could do a little more research before blasting United supporters or soccer fans in general.

Posted by: Jake H | October 3, 2007 10:15 PM

Wow, it took me about an hour to read through all of the comments poster here. Marc, I think you've got your new go to post generating machine all set.

The problem here is that the bulk of the mainstream sports journalism establishment in the United States cut their teeth on baseball, football, basketball, or in some cases hockey.

So, what is at work is simply the fact that most of these folks don't have a good understanding of soccer. To develop a solid understanding would take work... work that most are not willing to put it. It's much easier to dismiss soccer. I beleive the term is "contempt prior to investigation" That's what we see from a lot of fans of the "bigger" sports. Not all, but many. We also see this from folks that are soccer fans, but not MLS fans.

Those that were born prior to a certain time in the mid-70s (roughly) when it comes to technology are often dubbed "digital immigrants" while those born after that are considered to be "digital natives"

Apply this to soccer in the U.S. and we have an interesting situation. Those who were young and grew up with the NASL might be "soccer natives" those older and those that grew up after the folding of NASL would be "soccer immigrants" My children are "soccer natives"

Taken all together, we need to realize that folks like Marc, Tony K, etc. etc. can't really be "soccer natives". We need to understand that its hard to change (for any of us) Should we stop trying to build those bridges and inviting the tradational sports establishment to learn about soccer? Of course not. But we can't expect all of them to change and we can expect that changes in the sports media will be evolutionary rather revolutionary. Case in point: our very own Goff, Steinberg, and their compatriots.

Thanks for reading this. Cheers all. Marc, please take folks up on their offers to attend a United game. You won't be dissapointed.

Posted by: AlexandriaDan | October 3, 2007 10:20 PM

There's an old internet saying that is apropos for this thread.... DONT FEED THE TROLLS. Like soccer, don't like soccer. Like underwater hockey, don't like underwater hockey. You're not going to change anyone's mind on a blog thread.

The case for a no-bid development contract by the city to the DCU owners isn't very strong. To open it up for competing offers is the only way to not appear corrupt. That said, the appearance of corruption has never been a factor in DC political decisions before, so why now?

This a blog, not a news article. Fisher is allowed to be terrible with fact checking, because he's not acting as a real journalist--rather a columnist, and the difference is huge. If it was news, they'd be printing corrections all over the place. Because he's a columnist, the reader must do his/her own fact checking. He gets to choose his words, and you get to think he's an idiot. Do you expect a mea culpa?

Posted by: Leesburger | October 3, 2007 11:39 PM

Please people, enough already. If you enjoy hockey, baseball, football, soccer, basketball, auto racing, etc., that is great!

If you don't enjoy a paticular sport such as football, soccer, hockey, basketball etc., then just shut up about it (are you listening Jim Rome and Colin Cowherd). What makes sports great is it makes us forget about the day to day duldrums of life. Who cares what the other guy likes. Bashing other sports and their fans is juvenile and moronic.

Lastly, it is ridiculous to imply that this is a soccer thing. I hear this nonsense from fans of every sport.

Posted by: Common Sense | October 3, 2007 11:45 PM

Leesburger : "Do you expect a mea culpa?"

Yes, and then Marc locked into a room (possibly at the new Nationals stadium) to watch boreball for the rest of his life.

Posted by: Soccer Power | October 4, 2007 2:39 AM

Leesburger wrote-

"The case for a no-bid development contract by the city to the DCU owners isn't very strong. To open it up for competing offers is the only way to not appear corrupt. That said, the appearance of corruption has never been a factor in DC political decisions before, so why now?"

Well then, why doesn't Marc Fisher get on his high horse about the Radio One deal? There's a perfect example of Mayor Fenty letting a no-bid deal through for cronies of the government.



Posted by: JayRockers! | October 4, 2007 8:29 AM

You tell him Jay!!!!

I want everyone to remember that most of the soccer fans here (and everywhere) have no problem with the other sports. Many, like me, love baseball and football. It was Marc's article that we didn't like. Please recognize the difference.

Posted by: Larry France | October 4, 2007 9:19 AM


I think you need to weight these sports a bit differently in order to judge attendance value. There are other factors that should be taken into account.

A) Marketing dollars (TV, radio, print, net advertising)
B) FREE TV coverage (local news and print)

How many times have DC U Fans tried to catch a highlight, a score, anything really on local news channels? I can tell you from my experience that a one goal highlight or, more typically, a one liner score at the end of the sports period is all we get.

Compare that to baseball . . which is typically number 2 behind the Skins. Player interviews, endless highlights (of NON AREA teams are my personal favorite), etc., take a large chunk of the air time.

You get my point? You think RFK is dead because there is no reason to think otherwise (save Soccer Insider!). You have to leave your cubicle/small world to see it.

So analyze dollars spent on advertising plus the free dollars given away to the Nationals and all of a sudden, the Nationals numbers are really pathetic.

Meanwhile, UNITED continues to draw 20,000 to games on what really amounts to word of mouth. IE . . did you know there were thousands at RFK for a game against Mexican powerhouse Chivas last week ?

No? Then leave your hole. Get out of the Matrix. There's a world out there. It's alive. It's vibrant. It's DC UNITED.

Posted by: d | October 4, 2007 9:42 AM

""Fisher is allowed to be terrible with fact checking, because he's not acting as a real journalist--rather a columnist, and the difference is huge.""

Oh my god, Leesburger, please tell me you didn't type this. That's ridiculous.

A columnist can spout of accusations, lies, spittle and it's ok because they are not "journalists"?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2007 9:48 AM

ummm...Do the original columnists ever respond to these comments? Or does it just always end up being people going back and forth and ending up back at square one.

Posted by: Obi | October 4, 2007 11:02 AM

"A columnist can spout of accusations, lies, spittle and it's ok because they are not 'journalists'?"

The standards for news and the standards for editorial/commentary are very different. The reader must consider the source of a commentary, and check facts on their own to good a true picture. Commentators often use facts and statistics that are skewed to support their stated position, and often leave out facts and statistics that don't support their argument. As to "and it's OK"-- that's either a moral or legal judgment and standards vary for both based on several criteria. Moral judgments are reflected in professional standing and reputation. Legal judgments are reflected in legal outcomes of civil or criminal trials.

If you disagree with what they say, you really only have 4 or 5 methods of recourse:
1.) Letter to the editor which may or may not get printed.
2.) Petition for a cancelling of the syndication or firing.
3.) Write your own editorial/commentary to rebut the column and get it published in an alternate source.
4.) Write a blog entry that may or may not be responded to.
5.) Sue for slander, if your case is strong enough to prove.

Like it or not, that's how it works.

Posted by: Leesburger | October 4, 2007 11:21 AM

"Well then, why doesn't Marc Fisher get on his high horse about the Radio One deal? There's a perfect example of Mayor Fenty letting a no-bid deal through for cronies of the government."

Great point. The contentment with logical incongruity of said commentator is beyond me. I think it's hypocritical of Fenty as well, that's why I asked "the appearance of corruption has never been a factor in DC political decisions before, so why now?"


(Just giving you a friendly ribbing about your signature)

Posted by: Leesburger | October 4, 2007 11:32 AM

I'm a big DC United fan (season tickets). I am also a lifelong Redskin fan and have been aroubnd long enough to have been a Senators and Bullets fan and still am a Nats and Wizards fan. Even went to Capitals games in those early years when they set all those losing records.

I don't think I am that unusual as most DC United fans are also generally DC sports fans. There are a few of us who are insecure, as several folks - including Mr. Fisher and Mr. Wilbon - have pointed out and feel they have to denigrate the other teams in town to build up our own; but that is not what most of us are about. We want to see all Washington teams succeed.

We do feel slighted, however, when a good franchise with decent fans, players and even owners are an afterthought or an inconvenience when a writer wants to do a story about the death of a stadium when - to paraphrase Monty Python "it's not quite dead yet". It's okay to sentimentalize about how this will be "your" last time at the stadium because you are not a soccer fan, but don't bury the stadium when 20,000 of us will still be in it. That is disresceptful, particularly because we enjoy going to the stadium too and will for several years to come. What will you write when DC United actually leaves and RFK is actually demolished..."RFK..Dead Again."

Yes, we wish we could fill the upper tier, but we're actually quite happy to "help set the pace as MLS attendance rises" as a rival paper headlined (you might not consider the Examiner a rival since it has a smaller circulation). Conider how odd that headline is when a noted Post columnist had declared DC United to be struggling with its attendance only a week before. One story had numbers and facts, the other had impressions gleaned from a lack of interest in the very thing they were commenting about. Mr. Wilbon runs around making similar statements about how attendance used to be better with Cruyff and the Diplomats but DC United has actually outpaced the Diplomats in every year but one if you look at the first ten years of each club's existence and the soccer is much better. No wonder we get upset when the little attention paid to the team by the "major writers" ends up upsetting the fans who actually pay attention to the sport and misinforming the ones who don't (Wise is the only exception - he writes very few columns about United, but when he does, he adds some insights that helps to expand our knowledge). Note we also thank the sports gods for Goff and Steinberg who make an effort to know the subject they are writing about.

Now about the new stadium. Most of us fans are happy with RFK but we know that the team will only make serious money if they own their own stadium (that seems to be the general business model for all sports these days). More money means better players and better soccer so we are okay with that. The better food and beer are ancillary though I bet the better press boxes and luxury suites are more important to the writers and the big shots they love to hang out with.

The stadium at Poplar Point would have been nice because it is a good counter balance to all the shenanigans that went on with baseball. Long before the mcFarlane group came to town, DC United was in Ward 8 working with the community to figure out what would be a good plan (A fact which you missed). That land got valuable because Mayor Williams first thought it could be valuable and DC United worked with him to get the land swap which ultimately made it very valuable. Originally you believed it should stay a park but now, for some reason. you now believe all developers should get into the game. That makes it seem as if you have something against the stadium deal. You didn't want the land swap to happen and now that it did you don't want DC United to get the deal.

Maybe you will never see why we get so worked up. Maybe we will never get your worldview, but maybe, just maybe, you could take make a little more effort next time around to think about our perspective as you whip off some column with a throwaway line about DC United.

Posted by: noname | October 4, 2007 12:13 PM

Marc Fisher--Dead to Me

Posted by: Eski | October 4, 2007 12:27 PM

I'm not that avid a soccer fan, but I'm glad DC United is here, and just because I'm more of a baseball/Nationals fan doesn't mean I'm going to deride them. I can understand how irked some of their fans feel, based upon the franchise's success and relative lack of respect.

One thing to keep in mind: Washington is one of only three metro areas in the nation (New York and Chicago are the others) to have teams in all six major North American professional leagues -- MLB, NHL, NFL, NBA, WNBA and MLS. As a sports fan, I think that says something about this market.

Would I like to eventually see a new Redskins stadium on the RFK site? Sure, if it would also mean Super Bowls, Final Fours and so on. (And Snyder's damaged PR would get a major boost if he arranged for Maryland, GW, George Mason and Georgetown to play an annual four-team basketball tournament there, perhaps by awarding each school millions on the condition they agree to playing a tournament for 10 years or so.) But first, let's take care of United...if not at Poplar Point, then somewhere in the D.C. metro area, perhaps with a large-scale soccer stadium at the University of Maryland that the Terrapins could also use for lacrosse in the spring.

Posted by: Vincent | October 4, 2007 12:29 PM

I'm a DC United season ticket holder and I love watching the Redskins. I've never been a big fan of baseball or hockey, so what goes on with the Nats or Caps is of little interest to me.

The only question I guess I have is this: What difference does the venue have to real fans? I think RFK is a pit - but that doesn't mean I won't go to games there. That's where the game is. So for the Nats to think they will miraculously increase attendance because of a new stadium...well, just let me say I'm skeptical.

And for what it's worth, soccer fans by and large know that most mainstream sports media are biased against the game. You're a good example of that. Whatever.

Posted by: Dave | October 4, 2007 12:50 PM

United already attempted to work something out with UMd, they couldn't come to an agreement. Sharing with Lacrosse would be just as bad, if not worse than sharing with a football team as well. Vital parts of the pitch (namely the top of the Penalty areas) would be destroyed by the amount of action that takes place around a goal in Lacrosse.

Posted by: AlecW81 | October 4, 2007 1:20 PM

I've done a quick count of Marc's blogs this year. Looks like he's done 309 so far and only 15 of them have had a greater response then this one (most of them have to do with something about Pants?!??!??!). Not bad for a for a niche sport, eh? I'm thinking Marc needs to spend a little more time writing about soccer so he can improve the attendance for his own blog.

Posted by: Larry France | October 4, 2007 1:50 PM

Is everyone argued out yet? Can we come back and do it again next week?

Posted by: Chicago Fire Fan | October 4, 2007 5:21 PM

No, we're not done until Marc comes back and issues a public apology for wording his statement "DC United have struggled at RFK". Either that, or issue a reworded statement "Washington Nationals AND DC United both have struggled at RFK".

Posted by: Washington Post editors need to wake up! | October 4, 2007 5:35 PM

Hahahahaha! Marc is a stud! Don't you see, he is writing this to just get people talking about his article...I'm sure his bosses are loving it...nice one, Marc.

Now, onto my two cents. Marc, you did forget about soccer...whether you like it or not or think it is failing, it will still be played in RFK.

Soccer is doing fine in DC. Give us a 27,000 person stadium and we will get 24,000 or more every game...also, if we did that, you wouldn't say that DC was struggling...are the Wizards? Are the Caps? DC outdraws them...if the Wizards played in an RFK stadium with that many seats (indoor of course) would they be struggling? You might say yes, but you don't say that now.

As to other DC fans, I'm sorry if you feel United fans are haters. Some may be, but some non-soccer fans are haters on soccer. We have them all and I wish all DC teams good luck except the Skins (I'm a Cowboys fan). Please remember that many soccer fans are fans of all other sports in this country.

We just want the respect we deserve and to have people stop telling us that our sport is some gay girls isn't. It's a great sport...don't bash us...just leave us to watch our great game and we'll likely watch yours too.

If anyone is interested in coming to a United match, go see it with La Barra Brava...I've taken many soccer virgins to games with the Barra and they always want more afterwards.

Marc, I'll personally pay for your ticket and new United jersey...just give it a try and then you can write about can say you hated it too and I'm sure you'll get lots of comments on your article.

But seriously, give it a try...and that goes to all of you haven't been to a game yet...what do you have to lose? Tickets on me.

I mean it.

Posted by: BillP | October 4, 2007 7:19 PM

Why does United want a stadium of its own? So it can make more money and not have to lose out on concessions and parking and rent to RFK...same reason as the Nats.

Posted by: BillP | October 4, 2007 7:27 PM

"Eski - Marc Fisher--Dead to Me"

Dead to you? You mean to say he was ever alive to you? I wouldn't have known because he was never alive to me in the first place.

Posted by: Steve Goff is a real sports reporter | October 4, 2007 8:12 PM

LeesBurger says "Fisher is allowed to be terrible with fact checking..."

Well then, so we have a confirmation that Marc was pulling things out of his bottom. Could Washington Post also allow my 4 year old son to be an opinion writer? He has got the qualifications of being terrible with fact checking and blabbering inanities at random.

Posted by: Ward8 | October 4, 2007 11:43 PM

"I don't think it is disrespectful of United or its fans to note that RFK has not worked out as a venue. It is simply too large for soccer's current status as a spectator sport. It's not shameful for United's owners to search for a venue where they can build a stadium that would be half the capacity of RFK. It's realistic and smart. "

As a soccer fan, may I just add that this is a very accurate and fair appraisal of the situation.

Posted by: Jim | October 8, 2007 3:58 PM

What Mr. Fisher fails to point out is that the baseball stadium - all 41K seats of it - is paid for by the city, whereas the McFarlane Group would finance the entire construction of a soccer-specific stadium, less the necessary infrastructure improvements.

You tell me what the bigger waste is - a baseball stadium built with city money with a 41K capacity for a team that averages 25K, or a privately financed soccer stadium with a capacity of 25K, for a team that averages 17K?

Fisher is either the laziest reporter in town (no small feat), or, despite his protestations otherwise, has an obvious bias against soccer.

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