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Kansas City happy with opening day crowd

FC Kansas City vs. Portland Thorns FC, NWSL Opening Day
FC Kansas City vs. Portland Thorns FC, NWSL Opening Day

An overflow crowd of 6,784 fans in Overland Park, Kan. witnessed FC Kansas City defeat Portland Thorns FC in the inaugural NWSL match. (Photo Copyright Thad Bell for www.womens.soccerly.com | http://www.tpbphoto.com/)

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — When NWSL was announced last November, The Equalizer caught up with Brian Budzinski to inquire about the new club in Kansas City. The FC Kansas City president was asked about goals for the first season and he laid out a series of ambitious objectives. One of them was to sell out the home opener. Mission accomplished.

Yet the mere fact that 6,784 people attended Saturday’s match against Portland Thorns FC (capacity is about 6,100) is only a small part of the story.

“We were hoping for a great atmosphere and it turned out to be a spectacular atmosphere,” FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn said. “We heard yesterday (Friday) that there were about 1,000 tickets left. And then literally two hours later we heard it was sold out.”

[MORE: Kansas City, Portland draw 1-1 in opener]

The ticket sales did not stop at the point of a sellout. After getting clearance to sell standing room seats the club announced late Friday that those tickets would be released around 6 p.m. local time, 95 minutes before kickoff. As a result the fence lines on the southwest end of Shawnee Mission District Stadium had fans standing shoulder to shoulder for a look at the action.

Several supporters groups were on hand as well. “The Blue Crew” is specifically dedicated to the Blues and La Barra, a Sporting Kansas City group, sent a contingent as well. The supporters section helped liven up the atmosphere with singing and drumming.

“I hoped that it would be a full crowd,” said Alex Morgan of the Thorns, who are expecting to more than double the attendance number this weekend in their home opener vs. Seattle. “I’m really happy that it was sold out. I just went on Twitter (right after the match) and I’m hearing all these things. It’s great to hear all the excitement around it.”

[MORE: NWSL opening weekend attendance report and average]

The Equalizer arrived on the scene around 5:45 p.m. local time, almost two hours before kickoff, at which time the parking lot was filled with tailgaters. There was also a long line of folks waiting for the gate to open. An FC Kansas City worker reported people already in the lot as early as 4 p.m.

“Unbelievable,” was FC Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski’s choice of adjectives. “It was good to be part of this event.”

“I was fortunate to play in the inaugural game for WPS and that was in L.A.,” Sauerbrunn said. “The stadium was bigger and there were probably 12,000 people at that game (14,832 to be exact). This one felt like it was more intimate. And maybe just for purely selfish reasons just being from the area, it was more special for me.”

Budzinski’s other attendance goal was to average 4,000 a game. Saturday’s strong showing has the club off to a good start for achieving that goal.

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