In what the team hopes will be a step toward eventually getting a purpose-built soccer stadium, D.C. United has signed a new leas with RFK Stadium that keep them in the landmark facility for two more years, but also make it more suitable for its main tenant. Seating at RFK Stadium will be limited to the lower bowl and the team will attempt to sell advertising on the upper-bowl tarps. The new configuration will make capacity about 19,500.
"It’s a great branding opportunity, but it’s more important that our supporters become accustomed to a 20,000-seat stadium, and we expect that limiting the capacity will encourage an increase in season ticket sales," United President Kevin Payne told the Washington Post.
In previous years, capacity was about 45,000, a number that made RFK seem cavernous. The largest crowd United drew last year was 26,622, and was the only game all year that drew more than the new capacity. Last year, the team averaged about 15,000 fans and just 16,134 showed up for First Kick last week.
United is one of just four MLS teams that plays in a large stadiums. The Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps and New England Revolution all judiciously use tarps to limit capacity.
For more on United's stadium situation, check out Black and Red United.