Let’s talk about soccer for a second

With every bearable summer day comes visions of fall for me. And one of the places my brain loves to go when cooler weather  hits is toward all things soccer. By the way, I want to call it “football”, but to me, Americans doing that reminds me too much of Giada’s pronunciations of “mozzarella” on her cooking show. Just doesn’t sound right coming from us.

I don’t have a huge history playing the game. Most of my on-field experience came in the form of playing for the insert color here team or on various adult league squads. I got into soccer as an adult really, picking up a minor addiction watching the World Cup, playing pickup games, and enjoying a beer at the soccer-heavy Penny Lane Pub.

Fans view from a soccer game at VCU’s Sports Backers Stadium

We’ve got some good teams here at VCU, and our soccer programs under Dave Giffard on the men’s side, and Tim and Tiffany Sahaydak on the women’s side are on a major upward trajectory. But our off-campus facility at Sports Backers Stadium is really lacking in the atmosphere department. It’s the equivalent to when VCU basketball played regular season games in a half-empty Coliseum: it’s too big for what we need at the time, students can’t walk there, and is located in a generally desolate area.

The field is also surrounded by a track that pushes fans back even further from the action, assuming they made the drive in the first place (note: there apparently exists a shuttle to men’s games, but not women’s…go figure).

Our men’s team averaged 551 fans per game last season, our women just 228 — good for 3rd and 10th in the CAA last season.

For comparative purposes, our women’s hoops team averaged 486 fans/game this past season, our volleyball team 229/game in 2010 (the last season I could find that stat). Both play at the Siegel Center.

What I would love to see — be it at all possible — is a VCU soccer game on campus. I think that might drive those numbers up a bit.

Overhead view of VCU’s on-campus Cary Street Field

Imagine the pregame atmosphere at Mojos, then walking down the street to catch VCU v. UofR for an A-10 battle at the corner of Cary and Harrison streets at Cary Street Field.

Sure, there are a few (or a lot) of “details” you’d need to work out to make that possible (replace the turf with grass or new field turf, adjust the rec sports schedule, etc), but remember we’re spitballing here.

How about a one-night trial run, similar to when Georgetown basketball skips the Verizon Center to play the rare game on their on-campus facility?

Or here’s a something fun to ponder: how much could VCU get for Sports Backers Stadium, and what could they do with that money in terms up updating other facilities, or in potentially created new ones (can anyone say VCU track and field in Monroe Park…now you’re thinking outside of the box)?

Regardless, soccer season is fast approaching, so go check out our women’s team at Sports Backers against High Point on August 17th, or our men’s squad against Bucknell on the 24th, then come back to this blog post and tell me why you think we need to keep the games at Sports Backers, or work towards moving them on campus like a lot of the people I know would love to see.

A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...