US Open Cup: Sold-out game at Harvard a hint at urban future for New England Revolution?
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution president Brian Bilello examined the idea of bringing a Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match to Boston last year. The club even laid the foundation for a home match at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium at Harvard University before a coin flip dictated a road trip instead.
A kinder draw – and a comprehensive 5-1 victory at Rochester in a third-round encounter last month – paved the way for the Revolution to play their first competitive match inside city limits. The subsequent sell-out of the 2,500-seat, artificial turf venue on Tuesday should create an intimate and unique atmosphere when New York Red Bulls visit in a fourth-round affair on Wednesday night (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE on RevolutionSoccer.net).
“The idea was to bring it into the city, play it in a smaller, new venue, sell it out and make it a great experience,” Bilello told MLSsoccer.com. “I think we all recognized that there was a risk of having people who may not be able to make it into the event, but I think having 2,500 people at Harvard for us is going to be a better, more fun experience for fans than other venues we've used in the past for this.
"We're really happy with where we are at with it. We think it's going to be a great atmosphere.”
The smaller confines create a stark contrast with the usual set-up at Gillette Stadium, but Bilello rejected any notion that the switch to the smaller ground would hinder the Revs' chances of progressing to the quarterfinals in any way.
Instead, the decision to hold this match at Harvard allowed the Revs to cater to their urban supporters and venture into exactly the sort of territory they seek to inhabit when they build their own soccer-specific stadium.
Bilello said the club focused on the benefits of this one-off tie – a different experience for supporters in a tidy stadium well suited to the Open Cup – rather than any sort of broader theme possibly culled from the success of selling tickets for this affair.
“It's a little bit of a glimpse, but we don't look at it like 2,500 for the Open Cup means 20,000 for a stadium,” Bilello said. “The stadium is the primary thing we're looking to do to bring the team up there on a permanent basis.
"[This game is] just a nice way for fans to experience a special tournament, a tournament we want to do well in and that fans are really passionate about. Having it in an environment like this is a cool thing for what the tournament is."