Don’t let the picture above fool you, because it was taken well before the first game. Although we weren’t given a final attendance on Friday night, the crowd at Orlando City Stadium to see the 2017 NCAA Women’s College Cup semifinals was a pretty good one. The entire eastern side of the lower bowl was full and the two center sections of the upper deck were at least 80% filled, plus there were people in the suites.
Even Orlando Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni made a cameo, bringing his mug of coffee into the press box during the second match.
The crowd in the stands provided a good atmosphere for Stanford vs. South Carolina and Duke vs. UCLA. The stadium itself was a showpiece for yet another big soccer event.
After playing host to MLS, the NWSL, the USL, and a USMNT qualifier, the Women’s College Cup rolled into the Purple Palace. After the matches were played, the coaches had a lot of nice things to say about our home away from our actual homes.
“This place is phenomenal,” South Carolina Head Coach Shelley Smith said after her team’s 2-0 loss to Stanford. “It makes it that much more special for us to come here and play in this kind of venue, a soccer-specific facility, it’s amazing. We’re honored to play here; the pitch was amazing. It was such a nice grass, I wish I could have played.
“It was also nice to see fans coming in from both sides, there was great support for both teams. The committee, the production, everything was top notch. We felt that this was a special occasion to make it here but to have the treatment and the hospitality was different than anything we’ve ever experienced. It’s our first time and it was a special opportunity for us.”
Winning coach Paul Ratcliffe of Stanford also enjoyed the stadium.
“It was a fantastic night. This facility, this field is first class. The players were so excited just to step on the field,” Ratcliffe said. “That was a big part of it, just calming them down, saying ‘yes, this is real, now go enjoy it’. The weather has been fantastic, the support has been great, so we have been really happy and are enjoying it.”
The two head coaches from the second game were also complimentary of Orlando City Stadium.
“When you get to a final four, there’s obviously only one winner here, but I’m very happy that this group finished in this setting, getting to play in this venue,” Duke Head Coach Robbie Church said.
“Orlando City’s field was tremendous, the atmosphere was great, and I am happy to be in the finals on Sunday,” UCLA Head Coach Amanda Cromwell added.
So there you have it. Not only did Orlando City Stadium impress the likes of Bruce Arena and Christian Pulisic, who saw the stadium filled to capacity, but it also left quite a favorable impact on the four coaches who led their college teams onto the season’s largest stage on Friday.
Cromwell and Ratcliffe will lead their teams back into OCS on Sunday at noon to decide a national championship.