When the Portland Thorns host KC NWSL at Providence Park in the second match of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup and both teams’ first match on Friday, there will be fans in the stands for the first time since March 10, 2020.
But less spectators will be able to attend the first live sporting event in Portland than anticipated.
The Thorns got the clear to return to outdoor events in mid-March, just in time for the team’s April 9 match. Backed by a city full of fans, the Thorns average 20,000 fans per game, the most of any women’s soccer club. Only 25 percent capacity, or 6,300 fans will be able to attend due to health and safety protocols in Multnomah County.
“We are sincerely grateful to Governor Brown and the Oregon Health Authority for their hard work and support in getting fans back safely at Providence Park,” said owner and CEO Merritt Paulson in a press release. “As we enter a period of great optimism with falling COVID-19 rates and increased vaccine deployment, the protection of our fans, staff and players remains our top priority and we will diligently follow all public health protocols to ensure our plan is executed safely.
"It will be a special moment to have our fans back in the stands on April 9 and we hope that on the current trajectory, we will be able to safely increase capacity throughout the summer.”
On Friday, that capacity lessened to 15 percent as Multnomah Country returned to the “High Risk” category in a reminder that this pandemic is far from over.
Still, the Thorns and Timbers are doing whatever they can to make sure those in attendance are staying as safe as possible. For those who want to know what to expect in their return to Providence Park, the teams have posted a health & safety guidelines video.
As the Thorns take the pitch at Providence Park Friday night, they will be without several fan favorites. Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, Becky Sauerbrunn and Sophia Smith are currently playing for the U.S. national team. Christine Sinclair will also miss the match against Kansas City after being called up from Canada for international play.
The Thorns opener vs. KC NWSL in the Challenge Cup begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Providence Park.