By Steve Adams
Chesapeake Country is joining the global phenomenon that is professional soccer. The Annapolis Blues FC will take the pitch at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in 2023.
Soccer fans turned out Saturday to watch the U.S. Men’s team compete in the FIFA World Cup at a watch party at the Market House in Annapolis. Even though the U.S. was defeated by the Netherlands, fans were happy to be watching their favorite sport and talking about the new local team in town.
“I’m excited for the Blues to come to Annapolis and to participate in their journey as a supporter,” said Brandon Hanger, a 29-year-old Annapolis resident, and longtime soccer player. “It’s a great outlet for ex-players, and I hope that having a local team will help spark further development of youth teams in an area that’s full of lots of people who love to play and watch soccer.”
Nate Lance, a 36-year-old from Cape St. Claire agrees. Lance came to the event with his wife and daughter—all three were wearing Annapolis Blues apparel. “I’m really excited to have a local team to support, and I think it will be great going to the games with the family so regularly,” said Lance. “Having the matches at Navy stadium will create a great atmosphere, too.”
City leaders are also anticipating the Blues’ arrival. “What could be better than having our very own pro soccer team within walking distance from downtown Annapolis,” said Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley. “And, with the men’s World Cup now and the women’s to look forward to next summer, when could there be a better time for it?”
No better time indeed. Local watch parties have demonstrated a healthy appetite for soccer and boosted daytime beer sales at the many local businesses that have hosted them (including Dark Horse and Picante). They have also helped generate interest in—and ticket sales for—the Blues.
“Hosting and watching the World Cup at these watch parties has been a wonderful way to promote the club to local Annapolitans and meet many of the club’s early supporters,” said Steven Hooper, director of sales and marketing for the Annapolis Blues.
The soccer club has partnered with the Forward Brewery Run Club, hosted a children’s soccer clinic at the Annapolis Library, and set up a booth at Midnight Madness downtown for additional outreach. The Blues have sold over 1,000 season tickets, plus merchandise. Sponsors are joining the wave; companies from Rise Up Coffee to cybersecurity firm SixGen have signed on a full five months before the season begins in May.
“We already have a great indication of the success of this club off the pitch,” said Annapolis Blues General Manager Fred Matthes, who brings 17 years of experience with Major League Soccer to Annapolis. “And by providing a great fan atmosphere, including pre-game and half-time activities, and building a very competitive side from the various local talent at the collegiate, amateur and even past professional players throughout the region, we will make all Annapolitans, and beyond, proud to support this team as we play in our inaugural season.”
“Annapolis Blues will be a club that everyone in Annapolis will be proud to support,” said team owner Michael (Hitch) Hitchcock. “Our club will be built on the core value of community and using the world’s most popular game to do our small part of giving back to Annapolis. We want to bring the entire community together to cheer on their Blues. Game days will be a festive event where it’s affordable for families and friends to come out and support their hometown team.”
The team is expected to announce a head coach and roster in early 2023.
Learn more at www.annapolisblues.com or follow the team on social media.