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Loudoun United hosts first scrimmage, in what owner calls ‘soccer country’

Land has been cleared and flattened in Leesburg, in preparation for the building of 5,000-seat soccer stadium. (Courtesy Loudoun United)

WASHINGTON — Loudoun United, the new United Soccer League team owned by D.C. United, is hosting its first scrimmage in Leesburg, Virginia Thursday, yards away from its still-being-built future home.

The scrimmage against Bethlehem Steel FC is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Evergreen Sportsplex, in Bolen Park, across the street from Leesburg Airport.

Nearby, construction crews are hurrying to complete Loudoun United’s new 5,000 seat stadium. WTOP reported in January that the new stadium will not be completed before the team’s first scheduled home game, on May 3.

The team schedule lists the first game at Loudoun United Stadium on Aug 9..

“We are still finalizing the details on the 5 ‘home away from home’ games,” said Emma Carlin, media and marketing manager for the Loudoun club.

Dave Johnson, WTOP’s senior sports director and television voice for D.C. United, said Loudoun United will pay dividends for the Major League Soccer club.

“In previous years they would send players out for seasoning to a team in Richmond,” said Johnson. “These players will be getting quality competition against quality teams, and it should accelerate their progress.”

D.C. United’s Co-Chairman and CEO Jason Levien has said building the team’s office and training facilities in Leesburg will energize the team and community.

“In the 20th century, Loudoun County was really known as horse country, right? Early in the 21st century, a lot of people started talking about Loudoun County being wine country. And now, Loudoun County is going to be known as soccer country,” he said, in a recent news conference.

From a developmental perspective, Johnson said players being signed to the Loudoun team could eventually end up on the D.C. United roster.

“It can have players that aspire to being on the first team, or aren’t getting a lot of playing time with D.C. United, and they’ll get valuable game experience in a quality league,” Johnson said.

Johnson said unlike in Major League Baseball, where each club has a minor league farm system, several teams in the upper echelon of professional soccer have been elevated from the United Soccer League.

The differences between major and minor league baseball have been portrayed in movies including “Bull Durham” and “The Natural.”

“It’s not going to be long bus rides, it’ll be flights,” said Johnson. “Now, it won’t be five-star hotels, necessarily, and these players will not be making, in general, as much as players in Major League Soccer.”

Still, Johnson said the inaugural season for Loudoun United comes at a time of major interest in soccer in the United States.

“It’s also exciting for Northern Virginia,” Johnson said. “Twenty years ago, did you ever think a professional sports team would be in Loudoun County?”

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