There are no tickets available at this time.
Official Review by Michael Spatz, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When it comes to the coverage of female sports, international soccer is likely one of the most popular games between the World Cup and the Olympics. From women of the past like Mia Hamm to women of the present like Alex Morgan, Team USA women’s soccer has become a worldwide force, with four Olympic gold medals in the last five Olympic games and World Cup championships in 1991 and 1999. Domestically, however, women’s professional soccer has been a case of trial and error. Several leagues, such as the Women’s United Soccer Association and Women’s Professional Soccer, have disbanded just years after their creation. The newest eight-team league is the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), established in 2012. One of the league’s eight teams resides in Germantown, Maryland; the Washington Spirit.
Playing their home games at the Maryland SoccerPlex, the Washington Spirit brought women’s soccer back to Maryland after the relocation and eventual dissolution of the Washington Freedom organization (2001-2011 between two professional leagues). The success of the NWSL remains to be seen; 2013 was the league’s inaugural season. If the experience at the SoccerPlex is any indication, though, women’s soccer in Washington is a hit, just as long as at least some of the names on the field are recognizable.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
I really didn't know what to expect in terms of food and beverages at the Maryland SoccerPlex during a Washington Spirit game. What I saw ended up being a bit of a pleasant surprise. The first noteworthy feature of a Spirit home game is the Beer Garden. Yes, there is literally a section called the Beer Garden. It rests on the hill behind the south goal. There are no assigned seats on the hill, so seating is really first-come, first-served, with many fans bringing blankets to spread out on the lawn. While the bottom of the hill is free-range, the top is roped off and called the 'Beer Garden' because it's the only place where beer and wine are served in the stadium. Wine is $6 a cup, while beer is $5 or $6, depending on what you get. This is a nice place to sit, with easy access to the alcohol, a great view on a hill and no kids around to worry about since the garden is 21 and up.
There are also some other quality concession choices outside of the garden. A stand by the entrance sells food for $1 and drinks for $2. The drinks are Gatorade bottles, soda cans and bottled water, while the food is mostly candy, cookies and chips. The stand only takes cash, though; there's an ATM on the left side of the complex by the bathrooms. There is also a Discovery Sports Complex on the right corner of the SoccerPlex, easy to see from anywhere in the venue. The Discovery Complex is an indoor facility that is equipped with food choices and is also a popular event center, home to two indoor soccer fields, an indoor baseball diamond, a virtual arcade and eight basketball/volleyball courts, among other attractions.
If you haven't been to a Spirit game, throw out all your preconceived notions about what a game at the Maryland SoccerPlex must be like, because it's better.
The SoccerPlex doesn't show any indication of being the home of the Spirit, but the fans make sure that changes with the help of signs, noisemakers and chants. The atmosphere is loud whenever either team is threatening near the penalty box, or setting up a dangerous corner kick. The SoccerPlex itself is a great setting. There are seats on either sideline, as well as on the south hill. If you're sitting on the hill, it is a bit hard to see all of the action on the other side of the field, but since the teams switch sides at halftime, you'll have no problem seeing both teams and their goalies up close. A lot of the experience is based on the fans and a certain fan demographic (more on that later), but never think that this is some glorified high school women's soccer experience. Fans are serious about their Spirit, and even though the pitch isn't technically in Washington, DC (it is actually greater than 30 miles north of DC), the SoccerPlex is probably the best place for the Spirit to have realistically landed.
This can be where things get a bit confusing. The Washington Spirit don't play in Washington, DC; they play at the Maryland SoccerPlex, which is billed to be located in Germantown, Maryland. The actual physical address of the SoccerPlex is in Boyds, Maryland, however, which is a bordering section of the town. Boyds has a population of just over 2,000, so if you're looking for a place nearby to do, well anything really, you're a bit out of luck. The best places to eat are in neighboring Germantown, less than five miles down the road via MD-117 E. Yuraku (sushi) and Agrodolce (Italian) are popular food destinations in Germantown that you may not find anywhere else. I ended up eating at an Italian restaurant, Buca di Beppo, in nearby Gaithersburg, Maryland. It's a little over five miles from the SoccerPlex, but I would highly recommend it, especially if you're in a big group, because the food is served in large portions and is delicious.
Germantown, Maryland is the third-most populous area in Maryland, behind Baltimore and Columbia. Unfortunately, other than a good restaurant scene, there isn't that much to do in Germantown, either. If you're coming out this way in Maryland, chances are that it's just for the SoccerPlex; there's definitely not the neighborhood pull here that's around the more popular destinations such as Baltimore and Washington, DC.
The Washington Spirit, and the NWSL in general, have one major demographic when it comes to the fan base: young girls. The Spirit games could double as a One Direction concert because of how many girls, from pre-teens to high school, attend the game. It's a very fortunate situation for these fans; young players who are able to see their sports idols in person. Several different recreational and travel teams came with their coaches, all wearing their soccer jerseys. If the question that the Spirit and the NWSL had was whether or not the younger demographic would be interested in watching their idols in person, the answer seems to have come back as a resounding yes.
Many of the older fans came as a family, with kids, to the game. If it wasn't obvious, this is definitely a family-friendly league, and the fan base reflects that. Some of the fans that were around me at the game either played soccer in high school/college or were players in an adult recreational league. Mainly, the fans at the game seem to have some sort of soccer background, definitely more so than you would see at RFK Stadium with the DC United. The fans are knowledgeable and respectful, and chants are the typical 'WASHINGTON SPIRIT!' and 'LET'S GO SPIRIT!'
It's also important to note that although most of the fans were under eighteen, this certainly doesn't take away from the experience. The fans are loud when the Spirit are threatening, and always enjoy a good hustle play by a Spirit player.
A big bonus that comes from the SoccerPlex being in Boyds and not in a bigger city or area is the lack of traffic that you'll run into coming to a Spirit game. From Baltimore and other northern areas, take I-695 to Route I-70 West towards Frederick. From there, take the I-270 exit towards Washington and Germantown. Once off the highway, the trip can get a bit tricky, but if you follow Richter Farm Road to Schaeffer Road, you'll find that entrance on Central Park Circle, located on your right. If you're coming from the south, you can take I-495 West to Exit 35 and then to Exit 15B, Route 118 South towards Germantown. Once there, you'll be at Richter Farm Road, as above.
Parking at the SoccerPlex is extremely easy, as there are plenty of spots to accommodate all the activities that take place there. Parking is also free. The only place where traffic really is a problem is at the restrooms. Females; brace yourself for a long wait, especially if you decide to go during halftime. An ATM is located next to the bathroom, which is to the left of the main entrance. This comes in handy, since some of the concession stands only take cash.
General admission tickets to watch the Spirit at the Maryland SoccerPlex are $20. These tickets are good for the 'away side' bleachers, as well as Spirit Hill, the grass seating behind the south goal. Seats on the home side bleachers, which sit behind both teams' benches, are $25, while the middle section of those bleachers are $40 and line you up around midfield. I personally thought these prices were a bit on the high end. Spirit games are a good experience. but this is a brand new league that's trying to sell a sport in which even the men's professional side sometimes struggles to attract attention and coverage. Fans everywhere are trying to stretch the dollar in this economy and make their money go further. While there's nothing wrong with the view, paying $20 each in order to potentially sit on your own blanket on a grassy hill doesn't sound like the best value. As the NWSL matures, it will be interesting to see what happens in terms of the ticket prices.
The first and most important point goes to the entire organization for bringing women's soccer back to Washington. The long-term future of the NWSL is unknown, but amid talk about the Seattles and Portlands being the soccer hotbeds, it's nice that Washington was chosen as one of the eight expansion sites when the league was created. Another extra point goes to the large amount of fans that sport their own Washington Spirit apparel. Considering how young the organization is, it was great to see so many fans already having purchased their own Spirit shirts, jerseys or jackets. A third and final point is directed towards the Spirit stadium staff, who are very helpful and polite.
The National Women's Soccer League is the third professional attempt at organized women's soccer in the United States since 2000. Whether the league can learn from the previous leagues' mistakes and gain stability, we will have to wait and see. If you're in town and can catch a Washington Spirit game, I would recommend doing so. There are definitely ways that the experience can be improved, but it's a different, unique atmosphere than what you may be used to, and make no mistake, the soccer is high class. Though it may cost a bit more than you expect, a Spirit game at the Maryland SoccerPlex is fun to visit for fans of the sport.
There are no crowd reviews yet. Be the first and help us build with your expertise!
There are no local food and drink entries. Help us build with your expertise!
There are no local entertainment entries. Help us build with your expertise!
There are no local lodging entries. Help us build with your expertise!