The San Diego Wave is set to break NWSL attendance records. Even Bad Bunny didn’t ruin the party.

SAN DIEGO – At a crowded sports bar in the North Park neighborhood, cheers broke out among fans gathered for an August 27 watch party like Alex MorganThe goal of efficiency seals another victory for San Diego Waves.

There’s a buzz in the air among the crowd – it’s not just about beating Thorns Portland along the way, but also know that Wave will soon set attendance records for a National Women’s Soccer League game.

Just days before the 2-0 win over Portland, Wave announced that Saturday’s game against Angel City FC at the newly opened Snapdragon Stadium 32,000 tickets were sold – will easily surpass NWSL’s record of attending a game out of a total of 25,218 set up by Thorns in 2019.

“I was really intrigued because I didn’t know San Diego had the best representation as a sports town,” said Googie Daniels, president of Sirens, the first wave of supporters of Waves. “It elevates everyone and I think it’s going to be great for the league and for women’s sports in general.”

During their first season, the bar was set particularly high by Wave. On the field, they are coached by former Manchester United Coach Casey Stoney (Coach of the Year nominee) and a genuine NWSL Shield candidate for the season’s best supporting award. The team’s first signing is the powerful USWNT and the winner of the World Cup 2019 Abby Dahlkemperwhile central defender Naomi Girma could win Rookie of the Year and earn a spot on the US team at the 2023 World Cup.

Not to mention the league’s favorite Morgan MVP. The two-time World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist leads the NWSL with 15 goals and is near Sam KerrThe tournament record is 18.

Wave supporters responded in the stands. Like the team itself, the Sirens went from an idea in 2021 to a full-fledged project in a matter of months. And while Wave was quick to get major wins and scores on the field, the Sirens picked up new members to be won by their costumes, songs, banners, and yes, bubble machine.

“It was so inspiring,” Daniels said. “We showed up to have a good time and everyone supported that.”

The Waves have so far played all of their home games at the 6,000-capacity Torero Stadium on the University of San Diego campus. They now move east to the spacious 32,000-seat stadium owned by San Diego State that opened earlier this month.

The Sirens, and of course the players themselves, helped turn San Diego’s NWSL games into an entertaining spectacle.

“It’s exciting, we see families, we see people who may not even actually watch football,” said a Sirens member who goes by McB.

“They’ve been to a [game] and that kind of lights the fire,” McB said. That is all that is needed. “

‘Forgot about Bad Bunny’

Jill Ellis, a former US women’s national team coach and current club president of Wave, recalls the meeting about the new stadium setting lofty goals.

“”Sell it,” recalls the two-time World Cup-winning coach telling Wave staff.

When the club confirmed that Snapdragon Stadium would become their permanent home despite being 5 times larger than the previous venue, Ellis was highly opinionated.

“I think sometimes when you put things out there, people then, one, feel that there’s a destination, and two, people get on board to help you get there.”

Around the club’s main office, sticky notes and messages hyping ticket sales became a topic, popping up in emails and on shared refrigerators. A culture that leads employees to believe that a sell-off is possible has developed.

For a club without a name or title 11 months ago, all this was done at lightning speed.

As Ellis told ESPN in a May interview: “We’re on a very tight deadline to launch this team. It’s probably shorter than any pro franchise that’s ever launched.”

Even Bad Bunny won’t stop them. On the same night that Wave will perform City of Angels, the global pop icon will be the headlines in a concert at nearby Petco Park, home of San Diego Padres.

Ellis’ reaction after realizing Bad Bunny can steal some of their thunder: “Forget it, we can do this.”

However, morale is high with the growing number of tickets, with sold-out announced on September 1.

“If I could, I would make a trolley wheel,” Ellis recalls telling team owner Ron Burkle about the sold-out.

She also told the staff that it was exciting to be able to break the number of attendees in less than a year of existence, which to look forward to in the future.

“We want to see this normalized,” Ellis said. “Considering the large amount of women’s professional sports.

“This is an opportunity to make headlines, and not out of arrogance or greed, but to make headlines to tell people this is possible.”

‘San Diego is a football city’

Friday’s match will indeed break two proper records – the independent mark from 2019 and 27,248 NWSL-MLS doubles tournament attendees on August 29, 2021, saw Seattle Sounders and CV Reign organize the respective opponents Portland Wood and Thorns at Lumen Field.

“Based on all of our predictions, we think we’ll sell out about a week before that,” said Laura Stein, vice president of marketing. “We achieved it three weeks ago.”

How can they move so quickly? Urgency has become part of the team’s identity. According to Stein, the club quickly made the decision in mid-February to visit local football clubs once or twice a week.

“We bring out the president of the team, or the GM, or the coach or our players, to sit and Q&A and socialize with the young football players,” says Stein.

A contest to help sell tickets, called “Battle of the Clubs”, was also created with the chance for the best performing local club to win a practice session with Coach Wave. and a trophy presented by Ellis on the field at Saturday ‘s game .

Along with traditional online advertisements and billboards throughout the city, reaching local establishments became a major endeavor, resulting in the achievement of 300 locations in San Diego county within four week. The club visited bars, restaurants, community organizations, gyms and other venues, with stickers, posters and live chats to show support.

“We don’t make phone calls, we wear boots on the ground,” said Jeanene Valentine, senior ticketing director for Wave. “The community really opened its arms and embraced us.”

What makes San Diego different on Valentine’s Day is the idea of ​​joining a community that already has a rich and hidden football community. The wave doesn’t need to build football fans or die-hard supporters, it simply has to find a proper way to harness it. The city is home to USL’s San Diego Loyal (managed by the great USMNT Landon Donovan, who is also a co-owner), NISA’s Albion San Diego, and inside the San Diego Sockers home. Many locals also drove the short distance across the US-Mexico border to cheer on Liga MX’s Club Tijuana. And the city has been linked to a potential MLS franchise down the road.

As Valentine put it: “I know the moment we let the community know what we’re trying to achieve, that they’re going to support us and be a part of history. And that’s exactly what it is. happened.”

Back at the clock party, supporters seem to be just as optimistic as those in the previous office. Jerry Jimenez, who acts as an advocate liaison for The Wave, is not surprised that San Diego has sold enough tickets to break attendance records.

“That was our mindset from the beginning,” said Jimenez. “We’re going to break records from here.

“San Diego is showing up and showing us what a football city we are.”

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