It was top of the fans' wish list from the start. But only now Audi Field is getting the long desired safe standing section. In fact, two of them. Conversion will be ready before the upcoming MLS season.
It was possibly the most anticipated stadium of MLS. DC United had long dreamt of having a true football-specific home and finally the dream came true in 2018. Audi Field is hardly the largest or most impressive stadium of the league but it makes the most of a very tight and constrained plot.
When it opened, atmosphere between United and their most vibrant supporters was hardly perfect, part of the fanbase were protesting changes in policies that favoured one ultra group over others. Over time it stabilised and now the club is finally moving towards what all groups had been asking for: safe standing.
Before the 2020 MLS season two sections dedicated to singing supporters (136 and 137, both seen on the photo equipped with red benches/bleachers) will finally receive the waist-high railings. Previously they've been seen as potentially unsafe by supporters, especially on rainy days when the surface was slippery and there was nothing to hold on to. Now, for the price of $1 million, the club is changing things for some 2,000 fans.
United joining Galaxy and Red Bulls
Washington D.C. isn't the only place, where safe standing will make its debut in 2020. Los Angeles Galaxy has also promised safe standing to supporters from its three major groups. Four sections (120-123) of the north end at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson will welcome fans standing safely in 2020. This ends a decade (!) of campaigning for safe standing by most vocal supporters of Galaxy.
In December similar decision was announced by NY Red Bulls, who are struggling to fill their stadium on a regular basis. In order to improve atmosphere, the club decided to install rail seating across sections 133, 101 and 102 (lower south stand). For fans from the Viking Army and Empire Supporters Club it has also been a long-anticipated change at Red Bull Arena.
Safe standing a regular feature in MLS
While only three clubs so far have committed to the 'rail seat' model, safe standing areas are becoming a regular part of the matchday experience in MLS. San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles FC, Orlando City and Minnesota United already have their sections in place.