Last Saturday, with the stands packed, the sun shining, and temperatures finally over 60 degrees, Ballard FC kicked off the first game of their inaugural season. It was as near a perfect setting for hyper-local soccer as possible.
Fans began arriving early to Interbay Stadium, lining up outside the gates – decorated with the silhouette of Ballard’s iconic bridge in its raised position – well before the official opening. The sellout crowd of over a thousand included a wide range of ages, reflecting the club’s efforts to create a stadium experience and game-day atmosphere with families and young fans in mind. Some parents peddled up, towing toddlers in bike trailers and taking advantage of ample bike parking monitored by club staff. Older kids, many wearing shirts from their own soccer teams, ran around the open spaces on either side of the grandstand in excited anticipation.
Ballard FC soccer: What to know
Seattle’s newest sports team, Ballard FC plays in the USL League 2, a few tiers below where the MLS Seattle Sounders play. And whereas the Sounders draw huge, boisterous crowds to watch top players from around the world, Ballard’s roster is almost entirely made up of Seattle-area natives and local collegiate players in their early 20; promising young talents looking to jumpstart their professional playing careers.
This grassroots level of soccer makes for more personal connections between fans and players, often quite literally. Woody Favinger and his 6-year-old son, Tyler, came out in support of Woody’s cousin, Ballard Midfielder Charlie Gaffney.
“I started watching him when he was about my son’s age. He’s a little bit better than he was then. Really, really awesome to see him competing at this level now.”
Ballard Youth Soccer, a community partner of the club, provided ball kids for the game. Coach Sonja Petersen’s U10 girls were “over the moon” at the opportunity to watch from the sidelines and chase down errant balls during the game. Teammates Hannah and Violet were looking forward to meeting some of the players and comparing the level of skill to their own.
Heather and Marcel Smith of Magnolia were eager to introduce their 3-year-old son, Parker, to the sport they both love. “We’re excited to have him outside and exposed to soccer. The game is very approachable at this level, not too rambunctious.”
Ballard FC soccer: the action
The game itself didn’t disappoint. Hosting Lane United FC of Eugene, Ballard scored the opening goal just after the half-hour mark and added a second right before halftime.
During the break in action, Bernedette Biela watched her 2-year-old daughter, Roma, run circles in the grassy area near the west end. Already ticket holders for the Sounders and the women’s professional OL Reign teams, Shoreline residents Bernedette and her husband didn’t want to miss a chance to support more Seattle soccer. The friendly and lowkey energy in the stadium was exactly what she had hoped for.
“I love that there are spaces where the kids can run around and play, but you can still watch the game.”
The crowd’s enthusiasm resumed in the second half and Ballard FC rewarded their supporters with three more goals – including one from Gaffney – before conceding one to Lane United just ahead of the final whistle. Afterward, players made time to greet fans and sign autographs. One young fan in line to have his team shirt signed was 10-year-old Cash, who made the short trip from Crown Hill with his dad.
“I like that we have a good team so close to us. It was cool to hear the players talking during the game.”
Ballard FC soccer: if you go
The comprehensive 5-1 victory gave the fans a preview of what could well be an exciting summer of soccer at Interbay.
Their next home match against Olympia’s Oly Town FC (May 30) is already sold out, as is a June 10 match, but tickets for future matches (which continue through July 17) are still available. General admission is $15, kids under 5 are free.
And for families looking for camp activities this summer, the Ballard FC Youth Camp is a “pay what you can” opportunity for kids 5-13 to develop soccer skills while interacting with Ballard FC coaches and players. The camp runs August 1-5. More information and registration here.
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