Athletics & Recreation / Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Players and coaches are soccer stadium’s biggest fans

Next season, soccer games at DU won’t always be duels in the sun.

With construction of a new soccer stadium, night games under lights will replace the mid-day and late afternoon sweat-fests that have deterred scheduling big name opponents and kept crowds small. For men’s coach Bobby Muuss, a new stadium will elevate the program to a new level.

“You get a special feeling of excitement when you walk onto the field and the lights are on and people are in the seats,” Muuss says. “It’ll make a very good student-athlete environment an incredible one for the soccer players.”

Broiling, mid-afternoon matches make it difficult to build excitement among students, Muuss points out, and tough to attract metro-area soccer fans. Night games change that by making it easier for metro-area kids to attend, which lays the groundwork for building relationships between players and fans and boosts recruiting.

Night games also accelerate the speed of play and exact less toll on athletes. The games can be televised and give a psychological boost to the “passion and heart” of college soccer, he adds. Having a stadium field that isn’t the same turf the team practices on also creates a kind of sacred space that inspires performance.

Players agree.

“A stadium brings a whole other atmosphere. It brings the intensity up,” says Lizzy Carlson, a center midfielder for the women’s team. “When you’re playing under the lights, you’re under a spotlight. You never want to make a mistake, but when people are watching, you don’t want to make a mistake ten-fold.”

Kris Banghart, a defender for the men’s team, says playing in front of fans gets players’ juices flowing.

“The atmosphere is a lot different. You’re more excited. It gets everybody really wound up, ready to play,” he says. “It would be a huge home field advantage for us.”

He also believes the stadium will help keep Colorado’s top soccer players from leaving the state to play for other schools. And better recruiting might improve what already is a solid product. Last season, DU men were one goal away from clinching the conference title from perennial powerhouse New Mexico, and the women’s team has qualified for the NCAA tournament in five of the last seven years.

“We don’t have championships,” Muuss says. “What we have are opportunities, opportunities in a brand new stadium, opportunities to make your own history and be the first to do something. It’s exciting.”

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