This Sunday, the OL Reign face off against opponents from that other Washington in the National Women's Soccer League semifinal. The team formerly known as the Seattle Reign FC have endured a tumultuous season, overcoming an abrupt coaching change amid misconduct allegations and a less-than-stellar start to go 11-3-2 in the last 16 games of the season to snag the second seed. Their opponent, the Washington Spirit (who hail from DC, if that wasn't clear), have faced a similar coaching scandal and just barely edged out North Carolina in extra time to make it to this match.
Early predictions from sports pundits seem to lean the way of the Reign—maybe because they beat the Spirit in the semifinals in both 2014 and 2015—but which Washington wins when it comes to the other stuff?
We have a pixie-haired, women's national team hero in the way of equal pay champ and Sue Bird's other half, Megan Rapinoe. Oh, and international stars Rose Lavelle and Jessica Fishlock. The Spirit has this season's Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch and stellar midfielder Andi Sullivan. The talent is close, but experience and Rapinoe's pixie cut win this round.
The Reign packed up and headed south to Tacoma for good reason: Outdated Memorial Stadium, with its artificial turf, just couldn't cut it anymore. While they're making do with the 60-year-old, multipurpose Cheney Stadium at the moment, Metro Parks Tacoma is reviewing a Reign-backed proposal for a new 5,000-seat, soccer-specific sports complex. The Spirit split their games between two home pitches: Audi Field, completed in 2018 with a 20,000-person capacity, and the more intimate Segra Field. Until a new Tacoma stadium becomes a real thing, this one goes to our cross-country rivals.
The Spirit are going through an ownership controversy this season, with the players writing an open letter to owner Steve Baldwin asking him to sell the team after allegations of harassment and a toxic club culture surfaced and felled former coach Richie Burke. Baldwin announced last month that he does indeed plan to sell, but to whom is still unknown. The team does have some bright points, however, when it comes to minority owners, who include the likes of Jenna Bush Hager, Chelsea Clinton, Alexander Ovechkin, and Dominique Dawes. The Reign famously sold to OL Groupe, the parent company of French clubs Olympique Lyonnais and Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, in 2020. Founding owners Bill and Teresa Predmore maintain a minority stake, as does (French) former NBA star Tony Parker. Soccer royalty beats dysfunction any day, right?
We've gotta say, the original Reign logo was pretty badass. (She was an actual queen with a literal crown!) The new version featuring a lion a la their French club cousins is simply just not as cool. But the Spirit's badge is equally uninspired. Stars? Stripes? We get the generic comparisons, DC.
Unlike football or hockey, where the team's logo and numbers are front and center on the jersey, soccer kits cede way to a presenting sponsor. Hence the name "Intellibridge" splashed across the front of the Spirit unis. Meanwhile, the Reign had no presenting sponsor this year and opted to feature the Black Future Co-Op Fund, a Black- and female-led philanthropy group. A great cause versus a generic techie word mashup? This one is obvious.