News & Politics

Washington Spirit’s Home Opener Turns Into an Away Game

No running water—and a spat with DC United—are sending the women's team to Houston.

Segra Field in 2020, before construction began. Photograph courtesy the Washington Spirit.

The Washington Spirit’s home opener, scheduled for May 26, will take place in Texas instead. How did this come about?

Blame construction delays at Segra Field in Loudoun County, the team says. The National Women’s Soccer League asked the Spirit to move the home match with the Houston Dash because “Segra Field is not compliant with NWSL stadium requirements,” Spirit managing partner Steve Baldwin wrote in a message to fans on Sunday. The obvious option might have been Audi Field, where DC’s pro men’s soccer league plays. But D.C. United wouldn’t make Audi Field available on May 26, Baldwin wrote.

Among the issues at Segra, which, like Audi Field, D.C. United operates: Ongoing construction, no running water, and no permanent locker rooms or concession stands. And here’s where things get confusing: Two individuals “close to the situation said Segra Field would have met all NWSL stadium requirements by game time,” the Washington Post reports. D.C. United also tells the Post it did in fact agree to let the Spirit move its game to Audi Field, where May 26 appears to be the scheduled date for a “Sweat DC” fitness class, the blog Black & Red United reports. But Spirit executive Lindsay Barenz told Post reporter Steven Goff that D.C. United “set a variety of conditions on the request, some of which would be impossible to satisfy, others of which were overreaching.” The condition, Goff reports, was that United wanted the Spirit to commit to playing the other games it has scheduled at Segra.

So, the Spirit’s “home” game against the Houston Dash will now be played in Houston.

D.C. United told Black & Red United reporter Jason Anderson that it was “disappointed at the decision to move the game to Houston” and planned to host the Spirit’s June 6 tilt against the Orlando Pride at Audi Field. The Spirit’s next match scheduled for Segra is July 2.

The Spirit and United agreed to a partnership in late 2019 that called for the women’s team to train at Segra and play five home games there in 2021, in addition to seven at Audi Field. Work on Segra’s facilities, as well as construction on a new United training facility there, began this past February.

The Spirit have attracted some boldface names as investors, including Dominique DawesChelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush Hager, and, recently, Alex Ovechkin.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.