Whether you love or hate DC United, there is no denying that the Capital City’s club is an important part of Major League Soccer’s short history. Despite being one of the original MLS clubs, and despite winning 4 MLS Cups, 4 Supporters’ Shields, the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, and 2 U.S. Open Cups, the team has had little success in its efforts to obtain its own home, its own soccer specific stadium, in the D.C. area. While United’s current home, RFK Stadium, has played an important role in the American soccer landscape, anyone who has watched a match there can tell you that it is not the best stadium for enjoying a live match.
In recent weeks, the United stadium saga has taken a dark turn. Earlier this year, news of building a stadium in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just across the District line from where RFK is located, surfaced. While this potential move from the city to the suburbs was not completely greeted with open arms by United’s core fan base, it appeared that travel issues would not be a huge problem since the club was focusing on locations easily accessible by Metro lines. Any optimism that a stadium deal would go smoothly was dashed when county officials voted to oppose legislation in Maryland’s legislature that would have authorized a feasibility study for building the stadium.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber chose that time to weigh in on the United stadium issue, suggesting that if a deal for a new stadium cannot be reached, then the team will be moved out of the D.C. area. Whether this threat will have the desired impact on local officials is yet to be seen; however, it has rallied United fans in a grassroots effort to support keeping their team in D.C.
United’s supporter groups, especially the La Barra Brava, have taken the lead on organizing a march on Saturday May 9, 2009 to show fan support for United. The march, which will occur prior to United’s match against Toronto, will begin at Lincoln Park and end at RFK Stadium. Shuttle buses will be available, between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., to transport fans from the RFK parking lot to Lincoln Park.
Meanwhile, blogs like MatchFitUSA have pushed to make May 9th “Keep United in D.C. Day,” not just in D.C. but across the league by asking fans at other MLS matches to show support for keeping United in D.C.
Garber recently acknowledged that soccer fans in the U.S. are increasingly sophisticated, the size and scope of Saturday’s march will evidence how well organized United’s fans can be in their love of the their team and the sport. While I suspect a strong showing in D.C., I am very interested to see what type of support for keeping United in D.C. appears at other MLS matches this weekend.