Saturday marks the first-ever home match in the history of the Philadelphia Union -- a celebration of the return of professional soccer to Philadelphia.
But D.C. United’s fans are bent on crashing this party. The largest-ever D.C. United traveling fan contingent will be invading Lincoln Financial Field as their beloved Black-and-Red take on the expansion Union.
MLS Cup matches involving D.C. United have seen large travel groups and New York road trips have even averaged a few hundred fans. Saturday’s match will feature more than 1,000 United supporters making the trip to the Linc. Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia are separated by roughly a two-hour drive.
“The supporters circled this game on their calendars as soon as it was announced,” said Kyle Sheldon, D.C. United's director of marketing communications. “We expect it to be a real rivalry and we anticipate Philadelphia to travel a great number of fans to RFK Stadium on Aug. 22.”
The Union had originally provided D.C. United fans a ticket allotment in sections 233-237 in the second tier of the stadium. Those sections sit directly above the Union’s largest supporters club, the Sons of Ben, which are seated in sections 128-131.
However, earlier this week, the Union decided to move the D.C. fans to the opposite side of the stadium in sections 209-214. The two sets of fans will enter the stadium through different gates.
“The club decided in the interest of everyone’s safety and comfort that the D.C. United fans enjoy the match from a different area in the stadium,” said a Union spokesperson.
United has handled the change in stride. Through e-mails and a postcard handout on match day, traveling fans will be notified of the relocation. Stadium staffers will also be ready to direct D.C. fans to the new visiting supporters’ section.
To be fair, no expansion team in league history has had to deal with an invasion as large as the D.C. United fan contingent that will be traveling to Lincoln Financial Field.
In the lead-up to this first-ever match between the two sides, there were no signs of any hostility between the Union and United supporters groups. In fact, the two groups have gotten along well heading into Saturday’s match.
“They’ve been very friendly over the course of the last year,” Sheldon said. “No one anticipates any issues between the two groups. Our supporters have actually been very supportive of the Sons of Ben as they’ve geared up for their first season.”
Although sales ended at 3 p.m. ET on Friday, D.C. United fans planning on traveling can still purchase tickets through the Barra Brava or Screaming Eagles fan groups on Saturday as well as at stadium ticket windows. United fans will meet on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Lot E of the Linc before entering the stadium.