Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh is one-third of a trio of exciting developments for American soccer that launch this weekend. Two of the three are examples of the sport putting down roots, while the other tries to prove that something can grow on land that’s produced a thin harvest in two previous tries.
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL Pro play their first game at their new, 3,500-seat stadium on the river tomorrow night against Harrisburg. With outstanding views of the city behind it, Highmark Stadium should provide one of the best spectator experiences in the third division (and probably better than some clubs above them provide). The Riverhounds have been around (off and on) since 1999, but will get a good relaunch from a sellout crowd and hope to finally become a part of Pittsburgh’s sporting consciousness.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Scorpions’ Toyota Field opens tomorrow night when the Tampa Bay Rowdies come to the Alamo City. The 8,000-seat stadium is a little spartan, but has a grass field and looks like a tremendous home for the 2012 NASL attendance-leading Scorpions.
Finally, the third (and maybe final) attempt at a pro women’s soccer league in this country kicks off this weekend as the National Women’s Soccer League stages four games. FC Kansas City hosts Portland Saturday night in the first match in league history, while three other games are Sunday. In Seattle, where a bevy of US Women’s National Teamers helped the Seattle Sounders Women lead the W-League in attendance last summer, the NWSL entry, the Reign, hasn’t seen an outpouring of support just yet.
On the business side, owner Bill Predmore admitted Thursday that he is “disappointed” with season-ticket sales so far, and corporate sponsorships haven’t met expectations.
Elsewhere, the team’s general manager, Amy Carnell, resigned Monday for personal reasons.
“Probably somewhat naively, I thought it was going to be less difficult than it’s proven to be,” Predmore said. “I think I just underestimated the task at hand and really how short a period four months really is.”
While a new business model – where the soccer federations of the US, Canada and Mexico pay the salaries of star players – relieves some of the expense pressure from teams in this new league, the revenue side is still going to be the key. If the NWSL can’t do better at the gate than the WUSA and WPS did, it may find itself in similar straits before long.