RFK Stadium to host MLS Cup for third time
WASHINGTON -- In a victory for atmosphere over amenities, aging RFK Stadium was chosen to host the 2007 MLS Cup, becoming the first arena to stage Major League Soccer's title game three times.
The championship will be played at noon Nov. 18, an early time slot to accommodate broadcaster ABC, MLS commissioner Don Garber said at a news conference Thursday.
"This is a fantastic soccer market," Garber said. "This is a bit of a 'thank you' to the community and to D.C. United."
RFK Stadium, which opened in 1961, also hosted the MLS Cup in 1997 -- won by D.C. United, still the only team to capture the title on home turf -- and 2000.
The league's championship game was played at new, smaller soccer-specific facilities in Frisco, Texas, in 2005 and 2006, and Carson, Calif., in 2003 and 2004.
"Once you're in the seats in RFK Stadium, and the stands start bouncing, and the noise starts, and you can't hear yourself think," D.C. United president and CEO Kevin Payne said. "It's as good an environment as you're going to find in any sports venue in the United States."
The soccer club shares its stadium with major league baseball's Washington Nationals. Their seasons overlap, so the field must be reconfigured repeatedly, with the dirt infield used for baseball covered with patches of grass and the pitcher's mound lowered into the ground. Stands are shifted, too.
Payne said there should be enough time between the end of the Nationals' season -- their last home game is scheduled for Sept. 23 -- and the MLS Cup to re-sod half of the soccer field.
Seating capacity for the MLS Cup is expected to be about 44,000, and Garber said he expects a sellout if four-time league champion D.C. United reaches the game.
Payne said having the MLS Cup in the nation's capital could help the club's efforts to build a new stadium across the Anacostia River from where the Nationals are constructing their new ballpark.
The aim is for D.C. United to open its new stadium in 2009.