On Monday, Ride of the Valkyries writer Jacob Cristobal penned a great article about Seattle Reign FC attendance—crafted with a strong combination of research and reason. I could expand on that piece with more research and reason. But in the famous words of Aragorn, a fellow Ranger of the North, “It is not this day! This day we fight!”
So, let the fighting begin.
Just kidding, but for those of you who have said you are interested in attending a Reign FC match, but haven't yet taken that final step, I’d like to make the case for heading down to Memorial this month.
First off, I get it. Completely. Seattle is an expensive city. Housing and rent prices are astronomical. Parking is nonexistent. We can only do so much with our time and money, and the Sounders were the first local soccer team you fell in love with. EBFG is forever etched into your heart.
That is awesome, and I respect it. The beauty of sports is that there is no one reason a person becomes a fan. And there is no one way to be a fan. We support for so many reasons, from the atmosphere of the crowd to the camaraderie to the skill on display.
Let’s talk about how those elements all come to life at a Seattle Reign FC match.
Memorial Stadium isn’t fantastic, but here are some of the awesome things you get to experience there. Food trucks inside the stadium sell pizza, tacos, meat pies, and ice cream sandwiches that are the size of a hamburger, and there’s a beer garden if you want to grab a drink before the match or at halftime. You could also take advantage of this offer and get a ticket and beer for just $20. Twenty dollars!
When the game begins, you’ll be so close to the pitch that you’ll feel like you’re part of the action on the field. Reign FC coach Laura Harvey’s commands and arguments with the fourth official are on full display and audible for any fan—no matter where they sit—to soak in.
Don’t let Harvey distract you too much, however, as there’s really nothing better than witnessing a Jess Fishlock tackle in person—where she hooks her leg perfectly to not only dispossess an opponent, but spring up and have the ball at her feet. The roar from the crowd is electric the moment it happens.
For those with children, one of the biggest perks comes after the match, when young fans sprint down to the BECU Fan Zone behind the east endline. There, virtually every Reign FC player strolls by, pen in hand, to take photos and sign autographs. It is more fan accessible than arguably any other sport, and the players are happy to do it each and every game, regardless of the result.
Fortress Memorial has plenty of quirks (shoutout: Seagultras), and it could certainly be more accessible. But is that really enough to avoid attending one or two Reign FC matches a year? For some of you, that answer might still be yes. That’s fine, but I encourage others to have an open mind and give Memorial a chance.
Want to park for free? Some roads near Memorial Stadium are free all day. You can also park along the public lot that spans Westlake Ave N. and runs along the west end of Lake Union—most of those spots are free after 4 p.m. and on the weekend, and it’s just a 15-minute walk to the stadium.
Need something closer? There is a lot attached to Memorial, another just a few blocks away on Mercer, and one right across the street at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Let’s also talk about those Seattle Sounders, a team I love dearly. They were my first local professional soccer team as well. That inaugural season in MLS was magic, and freezing with fellow supporters in Toronto last December was one of my favorite sports moments of all time. I get how special this team is—from the owners, to the coach, to the players, to the supporters.
I also understand how hard it is to prioritize more than one team (could the MLS season be any longer?). Still, what if you didn’t have to sacrifice that much free time? What if you attended one or two Seattle Reign matches a year? Imagine what those extra bodies in the stands could produce over the course of a season—the energy would swallow up opponents in a sea of imposing Emerald City support.
It doesn’t necessarily need to be an either-or. Let’s take a page from improv classes and practice “yes, and ...”
Which brings me to conversations about the quality and speed of play on the field. If you think the pace of the game is slow at Memorial Stadium, we might disagree on virtually everything. Reign FC has implemented a style of play that aims to win the ball back as quickly as possible on defense. That means high pressure that begins with the front line and depends on every player on the field. It also means quick ball movement and a focus on meaningful possession.
If you think it’s fun watching Nicolas Loderio sprint around CenturyLink Field for 90 minutes, keep your eye on Megan Rapinoe, or Megan Jalapeño as my nephew calls her, and Merritt Mathias, who is tasked with relentlessly pressuring an opponent’s backline.
There’s a reason Seattle leads the league in goals scored this season—when the attack is flowing, the squad is unstoppable.
Memorial Stadium plays into the hands of Reign FC in many ways. The field is narrow, so teams can’t easily counter Seattle using pace and direct play. The familiarity with the field means that players know the unique bounces on the turf and can easily maintain their shape on defense. As a result, the squad has only lost two games in nearly four years playing at Memorial.
While the team no longer has Kim Little, who produced at least one jaw-dropping moment every match, there are still plenty of technical, talented athletes on this squad. Jess Fishlock plays like Ozzie Alonso—or Alonso like Fishlock—with heart, amazing vision, and a desire to do everything possible to help her team win. Rapinoe is having the best year of her career and currently leads the league in goals scored. Like Clint Dempsey, she tries stuff (keeping it PG).
Japan’s Rumi Utsugi might be the best holding midfielder in the league when fully healthy. She’s returning from an injury and then international duty, but is now back with the team full time. Her skill in that position allows Fishlock to push higher up the field and join the attack. If you appreciate movement off the ball, Naho Kawasumi is the player to watch. “The Homi” makes some of the smartest runs in the games.
What makes Reign FC so special, however, is that it has never been about one player. Everyone knows their role and pushes to become the best player they can for the team. The pieces all fit together, and that’s the true wizardry that Harvey brings to this club. This adds up to make Reign FC home games some of the best soccer to watch in person, and its a recipe that got the club back-to-back NWSL Shields.
This is a team that changed the landscape for women’s professional soccer in the United States. It pushed the league to move away from pure athleticism and fitness, and focus on adding technical skills and movement on and off the ball. That’s quality that doesn’t just exist in the moment, it revolutionizes a sport.
I get that following Seattle Reign FC is not for everybody. Today, I’m talking to those of you who I’ve heard say they want to or have been meaning to get to Memorial Stadium and catch a match.
Here’s my charge: make good on that promise. There are three remaining home matches for Reign FC this season, including one against Seattle’s heated rival, the Portland Thorns, who happen to be playing here the day before the Sounders host the Timbers. The Thorns bring in 15,000 fans or more each home match, and will likely be heading up to Memorial with more than 100 loud and organized supporters.
After losing a number of key players in the offseason, this team is fighting for a playoff spot. Seattle currently sits in fourth place, the final playoff spot, and has to face off against three teams above them on the league table before the regular season concludes. Every remaining game matters, and the team knows it. They’re going to give everything they can to make another push for the NWSL championship. Let’s do the same and show up for them.
Laura Harvey wants Iceland’s Viking thunderclap, similar to Seattle’s “Boom, Boom, Clap,” to roar through Memorial Stadium. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years covering the Reign, it’s that you should always listen to Harvey.
So what do you say: see you at Memorial?