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D.C. United's Very Bad, No Good Bluff

D.C. United, with perhaps the worst bluff in the history of bluffs, threatens to move to Loudon County, Virginia
Photo via WikiMedia Commons

After more than two years of negotiations with Washington D.C. for a new stadium, D.C. United is reportedly considering bolting to Virginia. The Washington Post reports Loudon County wants to snatch the MLS club out of the District.

Last year, United reached a complicated deal with the city involving land swaps and tax subsidies that some parties estimate to be worth as much as $183 million, the largest stadium subsidy in MLS history. Still, this apparently isn't generous enough for the United ownership, who probably don't like the idea of being responsible for any cost overruns on the Southwest D.C. project, since stadiums almost always have cost overruns.

Enter Loudon County and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who has made clear he's willing to be a bargaining chip in stadium negotiations, most recently by courting the Washington Redskins.

For D.C. United, this is probably just a negotiating tactic to extract a few more dollars out of the swelling D.C. coffers. It's hard to see United abandoning a D.C. stadium deal—which it's been after since the second the club stepped foot into RFK Stadium—that's signed, sealed, and delivered. Why would they abandon a D.C. site and the largest stadium subsidy in MLS history to go play in Loudon County, an absolute nightmare commute for anyone who lives in Maryland, the District, and most of Northern Virginia? (The stadium will be metro-accessible once the Silver Line extension is completed—your guess is as good as mine—but that would be almost an hour journey each way from downtown.)

Nobody believes the team will actually take the Loudon deal, should one ever be on the table. The team's fanbase consists largely of D.C.'s Hispanic community and the city's ever-growing yuppie contingent, both of which are predominantly located in the District itself, and many of whom don't have cars. To move out towards Dulles would essentially be spitting in its core fanbase's collective face.

Bluffing has to be plausible, which is why this is a very pathetic bluff that's almost begging to be called out. D.C. has bent over backwards to make this deal happen, including forking over hundreds of millions of dollars and surrendering prime real estate in the lucrative U Street corridor. Maybe they should take this opportunity to get out of the nightmare deal. After all, D.C. United is literally asking for it.