On Aug. 31, the Fresno State women’s soccer team will host Santa Clara in its first home game. There, the Bulldogs look to do something that hasn’t been done in nearly three years: break the national attendance record for a women’s soccer game.
The record, 8,527 people, was set at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a match between USC and UCLA on Oct. 22, 2010. And 8,528 is not the number that Fresno State coach Brian Zwaschka is seeking.
Instead, it’s 9,000.
Although the largest crowd at Fresno State in 2012 was just about 20 percent of that mark (1,780), Zwaschka says that the 9,000 goal is realistic.
“It’s ambitious, of course, but it is realistically doable based on the numbers of people that are registered in the area and the genuine love for the sport here,” Zwaschka said.
This ambition toward the attendance goal has been spun off into a project, called Project 9000. The project has been fueled by community outreach and connection with the various youth soccer leagues in the Central Valley.
A high turnout at the game isn’t the only goal of this project. A main goal is to pave the way for future Bulldog soccer players by showing them the tenacity and passion of the women’s soccer team. As part of the project, Zwaschka has connected with District 7, which oversees youth soccer teams in the Central Valley. About 22,000 children all over the Valley are part of amateur soccer teams.
“Our motive is selfish. We want that many people at the soccer game,” Zwaschka said. “But the very unselish piece is we want the children to be inspired, and we want to grow the game as well. Hopefully that makes it easier on our local coaches because the kids are inspired to play and they have some heroes to associate with.”
And work toward the project has been productive. Workshops and free soccer clinics were held by coaches in the community as a way of introducing young people into the world of soccer. The attendance at Bulldog Stadium would only help in showing young athletes for what they can strive.
“If we have that kind of crowd and that kind of atmosphere, hopefully that inspiration carries over,” Zwaschka said.
Bulldogs picked to finish sixth
In the Mountain West preseason poll, the Bulldogs were picked to finish sixth with 52 points. Defending champion San Diego State was picked to finish first with 99 points. New Mexico was picked second, with UNLV and Utah State tied for third.
Last year, the Bulldogs reached the Mountain West Tournament in the No. 5 spot, losing 1-0 to UNLV. The Bulldogs will face San Diego State on Sept. 27 in San Diego.
Three additional teams will join the Mountain West this year: San Jose State, Utah State and Colorado State.