The new San Diego stadium is the latest sign of hope in the English Premier League

Snapdragon . Stadium It is located at the eastern end of San Diego’s Mission Valley, surrounded by tree-lined bluffs, two highways, and a shopping center. It’s a handsome alternative to Qualcomm StadiumThe ancient 70,000-seat shrine to the city’s sporting past that slowly disintegrated through neglect before it was demolished two years ago.

He left the NFL before you left Qualcomm, and one of the major tenants of the new stadium is the first-year women’s soccer team, the San Diego Wave, which says a lot about San Diego’s changing sports landscape.

Many also say that the wave was welcomed into its new home on a picture-perfect Saturday night with fireworks, a navy parachute team, a military jet and a selling crowd announced at 32,000, a record for the women’s NFL and the second-largest audience for a game Sorority in US History.

“Seeing San Diego cuddling us so quickly the way they did, it was just a wonderful moment,” directed forward Alex Morgan He said. “I love breaking records. It is a really fun time to be a footballer.”

Morgan and her colleagues took care of the gift themselves, with a first-half goal from a teenager Jaden Show A great second half saw goalkeeper Keilen Sheridan save their 1-0 victory on goal Angel Citytheir competitor in the expansion team from Los Angeles.

San Diego Wave’s Alex Morgan, right, celebrates Jayden Shaw’s (11) goal against Angle City on Saturday night.

(Meg McLaughlin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

But tonight was about more than one outcome.

“It is just a sign or where we are and where we are heading,” he said Jill Ellis, who coached the US women’s national team for back-to-back World Cup titles before becoming head of the wave. “We wanted to break the record. We wanted to make history. It’s part of our intention with this club.

“So don’t tell me there is no appetite for women’s football.”

It might be a regional delicacy though. Although Wave set a single-game attendance record and Angel City attracts 18,755 fans per game, the second-highest average in league history, four other NWSL teams — a third of the league — draw under 5,000 per game. . If the high tide could lift all the boats, as Ellis likes to say, a heavy anchor could also sink them.

This is a problem that heavy NWSL must solve.

“Finding ways to connect the points where teams might need support, and that’s definitely an area that, from a league perspective, we’re focused on building it so we can really raise the bar and make sure all our teams are well positioned to succeed,” NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman He said.

“I think we’ve definitely reached an inflection point,” she added. “The association has created sustainable growth and sustainable metrics. It is not a one-time event in terms of success and outreach to their communities.”

Eleven months ago, the NWSL was about to fold. Allegations of sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior and homophobic comments have been forced to resign or be disqualified Former Commissioner Lisa Birdgeneral counsel Lisa Levine, and ultimately five of the league’s 10 coaches.

Today, the 10-year-old league is stronger than ever. According to the sports business website Sportico, Angel City, after less than 20 games in its first season, is already worth more than $100 million, making it the most valuable team in NWSL history. And its rivalry with San Diego — on the field, in the stands, and in the front offices — bodes well for the future.

“To think there was no team in California before this year is just crazy because seeing the fan bases, it’s unbelievable,” Morgan said. “And this rivalry will continue to huddle.”

Julie Ormanpresident and founder of Angel City, agrees.

“It’s going to be one of the best rivalries in the sport when we look back at the next five to 10 years,” she said. “These two clubs are breaking the rules as we go along. By seeing the results in attendance, viewing, merchandise sales, ticket sales, they prove that you are investing in the community, investing in your brand, investing in your club, and seeing results.”

Speaking of results, with Saturday’s win, the wave (10-6-4) jumped to the top NWSL ranking And it took a big step towards becoming the first expanded team to qualify for the League Qualifiers stage. Angel City (7-7-5), who are one and four points below the playoff streak with three games remaining, have a painfully poor margin of error if they hope to be second.

Shaw, 17, making his home debut, gave San Diego the only goal he would need in the 30th minute, as he advanced high in the middle of the penalty area to volley from Sofia Jacobson’s cross from the right wing. Shaw scored in each of her three NFL games. Sheridan made the goal standing by correctly guessing a Savannah McCaskill penalty attempt in the 74th minute, diving low and to her right to choke the shot and keep her seventh clean sheet of the season.

For Ellis, the real test is yet to come because a big crowd isn’t necessarily a movement. It could be a mirage.

“The more people who can come and watch us and have a great experience, the more they will want to come back,” she said. “That’s ultimately what we’re trying to do, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t.”

Angle City defender Megan Reed He sees no reason to stop at 32000.

“I expect to start seeing all over the league as a base. They are exciting matches that people want to attend, and they are so much fun.” “In five years, you’ll ask me about 60,000.”