Apr 26, 2013, 3:40 PM EDT
The walkway to the main gate of Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, N.Y. is called Wambach Way, a reminder of just how endeared Abby Wambach is in Rochester. And that was dedicated before Wambach was even part of a team that would be playing there, never mind before a league even officially existed.
She’s an A-list celebrity in the region. Her arrival at the stadium in the past has typically filled the building, which seats about 15,000 fans, depending on capacity for the day.
That’s just a small sampling of how big the U.S. women’s national team forward is in the greater Rochester area, where she grew up.
Most recently, Wambach and her U.S. teammates kicked off their celebration tour of a third-straight Olympic gold medal in Rochester in front of 13,208 fans on Sept. 1, 2012. That came a little over a year after the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) played its first game back from the 2011 Women’s World Cup at that same Sahlen’s Stadium.
On that day, 15,404 fans packed into additional seating and others had to be turned away at the gate. The whole city shut down. Thousands of fans and swarms of media — a paparazzi sort of scene if women’s soccer has ever seen one — packed into a local mall for a runners-up welcome back rally primarily for Wambach, along with Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger, who were also in town.
It was, and still is, The Abby Effect in Rochester. But now, that’s an every day thing. And now Rochester’s claim as Soccer Town USA is put to the test. How fleeting is the region’s affection for its city’s biggest star?
Unlike 2011, when Wambach played for (she didn’t actually play in the homecoming match due to a sore Achilles) the road team, the infamously rogue magicJack squad, Rochester’s First Lady is on the home team. Sure, she’s on the home team when the United States plays there, but that occurs sparingly.
Now Rochester has 11 Flash games (plus potential playoffs) to show up and support Wambach and the rest of this Flash squad, which has won three straight championships in three different leagues.
We already know that Wambach will miss the home opener as a “precautionary” measure after she sustained a head injury in last week’s 1-1 draw with the Washington Spirit.
But even before that was known, the sales for the home opener — the first chance of the year to see the Flash and Wambach — didn’t sound up to expectations. Per Wambach’s tweet:
Wash spirit 4500+, Portland 16,000+, KC 6,000+ in their home openers. I’ve heard we have 2,000 so far. Let’s go @wnyflash fans. Lets compete
— Abby Wambach (@AbbyWambach) April 23, 2013
That is the sort of attendance the Flash averaged in 2011 before the post-World Cup boom. That’s the kind of number that makes the very open Sahlen’s Stadium feel empty.
As of Friday morning, the Flash would not comment on how many tickets had been sold for the home opener.
So the question remains: Will Wambach still sell when she is in Western New York all the time? The answer is not an implication on Wambach, but the market’s elasticity. Relative to women’s soccer, this should be a slam dunk for attendance and marketing. Whether or not it is remains to be seen. And those expectations need to be realistic, too.
The Flash won’t sell out every game. They may not sell out at all this year. But the hope in Western New York is that Wambach can turn those crowds that may have previously hovered around 2,000 fans into double that. Even that would be a major victory for Rochester and the National Women’s Soccer League.
The test begins Saturday, but really kicks into gear on Wednesday, when the Flash host Sky Blue FC on a weeknight, four days after the home opener. Then, of course, every home game after that.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:24 AM EDT
The Baggies are two points above the drop with 9 points, while Palace’s 8 points have them slightly less safe.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT
Around this time last season, Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic scored a goal in the wind against Southampton.
Oct 25, 2014, 9:17 AM EDT
Before the tournament, we asked whether they’d roar, and so far the US women have done so.
Oct 25, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT
Van Gaal: “He’s very special but he is very special for me because we’ve continued our relationship.”
Oct 25, 2014, 8:25 AM EDT
Just what is going wrong at the back for Liverpool? Brendan Rodgers has a theory…
Oct 25, 2014, 7:33 AM EDT
Can West Ham upset Man City? Watch live, here.
Oct 25, 2014, 7:02 AM EDT
Where and how to watch every PL game during Week 9 live online or via the app.
Oct 24, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
The midfielder is yet to make a Premier League start this season as rumors surfaced that he could return to Brazil on loan.
Oct 24, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT
Chicago ended their season with a win as Florent Sinama-Pongolle tallied in stoppage time to erase Houston’s first half lead.
Oct 24, 2014, 9:22 PM EDT
You can watch the match live on NBCSN or online via Live Extra.
Oct 24, 2014, 8:51 PM EDT
Neil Warnock could be answering to a new boss if American billionaire Josh Harris purchases Palace.
Oct 24, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Jose Carlos Rivero was charged with two felonies earlier this month but continued to work games for the MLS.
Oct 24, 2014, 7:27 PM EDT
The New York Red Bulls made a young girl’s dream come true as she signed a one-day contract with her favorite team.
Oct 24, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
Watch the Black Cats host the Gunners at 9:45 a.m. ET online via Live Extra.
Oct 24, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT
UEFA handed Serbia a 3-0 win but deducted points after their match against Albania was called off due to violence.
Oct 24, 2014, 4:43 PM EDT
The former England captain and Manchester United legend plans to retire after his season at QPR.
Oct 24, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT
Watch as Leicester City travels to Liberty Stadium tomorrow live on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Oct 24, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT
Pogba broke through with 9 goals and 10 assists across all competitions for Juventus last season and a goal and assist at the World Cup.
A coach tells a fan tells a ticket rep… How soccer fans and the Red Bulls created this adorable goal video
Oct 24, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT
It’s a little dusty in here. Godspeed, Irelyn. May a cure be found in short order!
Oct 24, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT
It’s going to be ugly and we’re going to shake our heads. Some will feign shock. And the whole cycle will repeat itself again at Barcelona.
- WATCH: Premier League online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 9 0
- Chicago Fire 2-1 Houston Dynamo: Stoppage-time winner caps off Chicago comeback (VIDEO) 1
- Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Arsenal 0
- Still defending racial incident, seething at bite talk, Suarez returns for Barcelona 0
- Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool 0
- WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 9 1