Republic FC president Warren Smith boasted last month that the USL Pro expansion team’s first match in Sacramento would draw at least 20,000 fans to Hughes Stadium.
“When we host over 20,000 fans at Hughes Stadium on April 26,” Smith told The Bee early last month, “soccer fans around the world” will know about Sacramento’s passion for the sport.
We weren’t alone in chuckling about Smith’s bravado.
But it looks like Smith will get the last laugh.
While all of Hughes’ 20,311 seats might not be filled for Saturday’s match against the Harrisburg (Pa.) City Islanders, the match will shatter the league’s regular-season record, based on the number of tickets already sold, according to team officials who expect between 15,000 and 20,000 fans. Orlando (Fla.) City SC holds the regular-season record of 10,697 at the Florida Citrus Bowl on Aug. 11, 2013.
Orlando City also holds the overall single-match attendance record of 20,886 on Sept. 7, 2013, for the USL Pro championship, also at the Citrus Bowl.
The attendance records in Orlando have paid dividends far beyond gate receipts; Orlando City will move up to Major League Soccer next season.
While landing an MLS team in Sacramento still is mostly a dream – the reality is that it would take about $150 million for the expansion fee and stadium construction – you can bet MLS commissioner Don Garber will be paying close attention to Saturday’s attendance.
And here’s some perspective: The average attendance at USL Pro games through the first four weeks of the season was 2,347, and Republic FC officials report they have sold more than 5,500 season tickets.
– Tom Couzens
How many Republic FC matches will you attend this season?
• All 14 home matches
• More than seven
• Fewer than seven
• Only Saturday’s home-opener
Vote above, or go to sacbee.com/sports
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