On Thursday morning, Washington D.C. mayor Vincent Gray and Major League Soccer club D.C. United inked a tentative deal to build a new 20,000-seat stadium in the Buzzard Point area of the District, near Nationals Park and the rapidly developing Southwest Waterfront. The stadium could open by 2016, if all goes according to plan.
This is great news not only for D.C. United supporters, who have been forced to watch the most storied franchise in MLS history (four MS Cups and two U.S. Open Cups) play its home games at rickety old RFK Stadium while nearly every other franchise besides the New England Revolution has moved into shiny new soccer-specific stadiums.
But it is even better news for American soccer, because a $300 million state-of-the-art stadium in the shadow of the Capitol dome in the most powerful city in the world sends a strong message that this country takes the sport of soccer seriously.
Now, when major European powerhouses like Chelsea or Real Madrid, or national teams such as Germany or Brazil come to the nation’s capital for international friendlies, they will play in a world-class facility instead of third-rate RFK and come away with the impression that the capital of America is a soccer city.
So this fantastic development is not just great news for D.C. United and their wonderfully loyal fans who will finally get their just reward of a new stadium, but the millions of Americans rooting for soccer to take that next step as a true American pastime.