NWSL History On the Horizon at Wrigley Field

Saturday will be a monumental day for women’s football in the United States. The Chicago Red Stars take on Bay FC in an NWSL regular-season match at the famed Wrigley Field. The stadium, long-time home of baseball’s Chicago Cubs, will host a women’s sporting event for the first time in 80 years. More importantly, both club and league attendance records could be shattered. It is a historic moment for all involved and could have a huge impact on the Red Stars’ future.

The Story Behind the Event

It is certainly unconventional for a football match of any kind to take place inside a baseball stadium. The exceptions are matches played at ballparks specifically configured for the beautiful game, such as Yankee Stadium in New York, and even that’s a little odd. In the case of the latter, New York City FC is owned by City Football Group, a subsidiary of Yankee Global Enterprises, explaining the stadium-sharing situation.

A similar explanation exists for this one-off clash at Wrigley. As of last year, the Chicago Red Stars are owned by Laura Ricketts, who co-owns the Chicago Cubs with her family. The Red Stars have historically struggled to attract fans to their home venue, Seatgeek Stadium in Bridgeview. This year, they have averaged a home attendance of 3,864 people, the lowest in the NWSL. A match in the city and at an accessible location will significantly boost this number.

The Wrigley Field match is a stroke of marketing brilliance, but it is also an experiment. The Red Stars’ lease at Seatgeek Stadium expires at the end of 2025, and they are said to be exploring stadium options in Chicago proper. The match at Wrigley Field will serve as a trial run. That is not to say that the team will enter a ground-sharing agreement with the Cubs. Rather, a large turnout and successful event could draw funding for a soccer-specific venue in the city.

Record-Breaking Potential

Beyond the financial and practical incentives of the Red Stars-Bay FC clash taking place at Wrigley Field, there is also the matter of pure prestige. A professional women’s soccer match will take place in one of American sports’ most hallowed venues. Not only that, the game will show the potential for growth of women’s sports in the country.

Extratime Talk reached out to the Red Stars regarding the state of ticket sales for the forthcoming match. It was confirmed that the club attendance record will be broken. A total of 23,951 fans attended Chicago’s home match against the San Diego Wave at Soldier Field in 2022, a number that is set to be surpassed this Saturday. In fact, a Red Stars representative claimed that “we are well on our way toward the NWSL record.” That number stands at 34,130 and was set by the OL Reign and Washington Spirit in Seattle last year.

Regardless of whether the Wrigley bout draws the biggest crowd in NWSL history, it will have an immense ripple effect on the Red Stars organization, the league and women’s sports in the U.S. as a whole. That many people cramming Wrigley Field for something other than a Cubs game – a women’s soccer match, no less – is sending a strong signal to the world. One way or another, history will be made on Saturday evening in Chicago.

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