By Julie Henning
Ten professional, sanctioned, soccer teams participated in the 1996 Major League Soccer (MLS) inaugural season. Over the past 20 years, MLS soccer has grown to 20 teams across the United States and Canada.
Here are five soccer stadium tours to get groups in the game.
Providence Park: Portland Timbers
Located in the heart of downtown Portland, Oregon, Providence Park is home turf for the Portland Timbers, 2015 MLS Cup Champions. The complex recently underwent a $40 million renovation to improve both amenities and views of the field during non-game times.
Soccer stadium tours are available for groups of up to 30 people and cover the history of the building, the new-and-improved facility and other fun facts. Tours run between 45 minutes and one hour and must be scheduled a minimum of one week in advance.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park: Colorado Rapids
One of the original charter teams that helped launch MLS in the U.S., the Colorado Rapids Soccer Club plays home games at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The main stadium seats 18,000 fans and is located within a larger complex of 24 full-size, fully-lit fields.
Guided soccer stadium tours of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park take visitors onto the playing field and into the team locker room, weight room, media area and premiere club level. Groups learn how the stadium was uniquely constructed for growing grass in a Rocky Mountain climate. Groups of 10 or more individuals are welcome with a two-week advance reservation. Tours last one hour.
Mapfre Stadium: Columbus Crew
Mapfre Stadium is the first soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. and the home field for the Columbus Crew. Up to 19,968 fans can enjoy a MLS match on any given game day. During a one-hour group tour of Mapfre Stadium, guides discuss stadium specifics and some of the most historic matches played in Columbus, Ohio.
Tours visit the stadium’s hospitality suites, team locker rooms and the playing field. Stadium staff request a two-week advance reservation and can split large groups in a way that maximizes the overall tour experience.
BBVA Compass Stadium: Houston Dynamo
Fans seated at BBVA Compass Stadium enjoy views of the downtown Houston, Texas, skyline as they watch the Houston Dynamo play on the soccer-specific field. The team played their first game in the 22,039-seat stadium on May 12, 2012 and did not lose a home game in their inaugural year.
Groups of 10 or more may tour BBVA Compass Stadium Monday through Friday; tours are not available on game or event days. Tours run between 30 and 45 minutes and include a trip through the team locker room and onto the playing field, and access into the club lounge. All participants receive a ticket to an upcoming home game.
Red Bull Arena: New York Red Bulls
Harrison, New Jersey
A soccer-specific stadium, Red Bull Arena was constructed in 2010 in Harrison, New Jersey, for the New York Red Bulls. Designed to give all 25,000 seats a full view of the playing field, Red Bull staff say there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Groups touring Red Bull Arena will learn about team history and highlights as the New York Red Bulls enter their 20th year in the MLS. Tours give visitors access to team locker rooms, plaza lounges, player tunnels and views of the field from behind the player benches. Tours may be arranged on non-game days and with a two-week advance notice.