WakeMed Soccer Park: North Carolina Courage vs. Chicago Red Stars

WakeMed Soccer Park: North Carolina Courage vs. Chicago Red Stars

When the NWSL launched in 2013, most teams played at venues one step above a high school soccer field. Thankfully, teams and crowds grew and 13 out of the 14 teams in the league ended up in large stadiums that can handle tens of thousands of fans today.

WakeMed Soccer Park feels like a throwback to those early days of the league because the pitch itself felt like the times we've gone to games at Oregon State or the University of Oregon to watch soccer. You get metal benches and no shade since there are no walls to block the sun. You can't get much height out of metal bleachers so you can't see the opposite side of the field very well. It doesn't quite feel like a serious place to have national pro-level matches, and I came out of this trip hoping the Courage can someday find a sizable soccer stadium to really support the fans and their team on the same level as the rest of the league.

On the plus side, the informality of such a relaxed venue meant that post-game, players walked up into the stands to meet friends and family and you could talk to players pretty easily. We chatted up our favorite ex-Portland Thorns player and told her how much we missed her. We could have gotten anything we wanted signed by any specific player after the game.

Raleigh was dreadfully hot this past weekend, but it was a fun, interesting city with a rich history and we enjoyed lots of great food, good museums, and the air conditioning we found everywhere. I could see why this is a real destination type place and would make for a great weekend when it's not near 100ºF.

As an extra bonus on our flight home, the entire Red Stars were on our plane that connected in Chicago so we got to tell Mal Swanson her goal the night before was absolutely epic.