Twitter was awash with activity Friday morning, as it was reported that Providence Park will host to the National Women's Soccer League Final, according to Charles Boehm of SoccerWire.com. The NWSL has made no official comment.
The Final will be held on Thursday, October 1.
Until this point, it was believed that the Final would take place at the home venue of the finalist with the highest regular season points total, as has been the case in previous season, but Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson revealed on Twitter that the change had been approved on April 10 at the owners meeting in Houston, and reaffirmed mid-season.
However, reports out of Houston suggest that BBVA Compass Stadium is also in the running as a site for the Final, and Paulson revealed that the site has not been fully finalized at this point.
Paulson was also quick to point out that the Providence Park did not ask to host, but rather the League wanted a site with specific qualifications in place.
Speculation exists that the League's broadcast deal with Fox Sports played a significant role in the change.
For the NWSL, this change makes business sense. Providence Park and BBVA Compass Stadium are Major League Soccer venues with full television production facilities already in place, significantly larger capacities (21,144 and 22,000, respectively) than the League's other venues, and venue aesthetics, among other considerations.
The move is also risky. The Thorns currently sit in 5th in the NWSL table at 22 points, while Houston is 6th at 20 points, both sides falling outside the playoffs at the current moment, with three matches remaining in the regular season. FC Kansas City and Washington are currently 3rd and 4th at 25 points.
Should neither of the tenants of the sites in consideration make the playoffs, it stands to reason that the casual fan would not go out of their way to purchase tickets to a match they have no rooting interest in, and travel costs and a mid-week match may provide a significant obstacle for many fans coming from the east or midwest.
We will keep you updated as this story progresses...