Casey Stoney: Incredible to set NWSL crowd record without relying on a men’s team

Fans cheer during the first half of an NWSL womens soccer game between the Angel City FC and the San Diego Wave
More than 32,000 fans watched San Diego Wave beat Angel City 1-0 on Saturday

San Diego Wave head coach Casey Stoney says it was “huge moment of pride” to see her side set a record attendance in the National Women’s Soccer League.

Some 32,000 fans saw her team last week – the highest in the United States for a professional women’s game since 2001.

The ex-Manchester United coach said it was “incredible” to be able to sell out without relying on the name of a men’s team to help sell tickets.

“I didn’t even think a day like that would happen,” she said.

The former England defender, 40, joined the club last July after resigning from her role at Man Utd over concerns with resources and facilities at the Women’s Super League team.

Speaking to BBC World Service’s World Football programme, Stoney said moving to a football club that only had a women’s team was “one of the biggest reasons why I chose to come here”.

She said: “We don’t have to play second fiddle to anyone.

“We don’t have to wait to use pitches or the gym, or be told we can’t do something because the under-15 boys or under-16 boys are in there.”

‘Moment will stay with me forever’

The record crowd at the Snapdragon Stadium was the highest ever attendance in the NWSL, which was created in 2012.

A number of new records in the women’s game have been set over recent months, including Barcelona twice breaking the world record with more than 91,000 fans last season.

“To be able to walk out there and see the players perform in front of a sell-out 32,000 at a club that’s only been in existence for a little over a year is incredible,” said Stoney.

“To not have to rely on a huge badge of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea to sell out, for a women’s-only football club, is just incredible.”

“To be part of an expansion team and new club, to be able to build what this club has been able to build in a very short space of time, to be part of this San Diego community that get behind the team and we sell out with time to spare – was just a huge, huge moment of pride and one that will stay with me forever.”

Jessica Sigsworth of Manchester United celebrates with Casey Stoney and team mates after scoring their side's first goal during the FA Cup match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Leigh Sports Village on May 16, 2021
Casey Stoney joined Manchester United in 2018 and won promotion to the WSL in 2019

Stoney, who made 130 appearances for England, led Manchester United to consecutive fourth-place finishes in their first two seasons in England’s top flight. She announced her departure in May 2021.

“To be able to be part of this club (San Diego), in one of the most incredible places in the world, was something I couldn’t turn down,” she added. “It’s definitely not disappointed me so far.

“To be able to have something that’s grown from scratch, dedicated to the women’s-only team, to give the players what they deserve – it’s something that I’ve fought for and dreamed about for many years.”

  • Listen to more episodes of BBC World Service’s World Football podcast here.

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