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D.C. United’s new training site doesn’t violate the requirements of their stadium deal in the District

As best we can tell, the deal with Loudoun County doesn’t cross any aspect of the deal with D.C.

Courtesy of D.C. United

In the wake of D.C. United announcing that Loudoun County would be the site of the club’s training facility and 5,000-6,000 seat stadium for a USL team run by United, the concern that was mentioned in Steven Goff’s Washington Post article last week is that “...most employees would have to move...” to the Leesburg, Virginia site. Theoretically, that could put United in breach of the No-Relocation Agreement the team entered into with the District in 2015 as part of making Audi Field a reality.

Let’s take a look at the section of the agreement that people appear to be citing in this matter, both of which are part of Article 3 (Other Covenants). We’ll start with Section 3.2, which discusses the team’s best efforts to find a practice facility in the city.

It’s been no secret that the team has been looking at sites both in and out of the District, from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in D.C. to George Mason University to other places in Loudoun County. For example, B&RU has learned that the Fairfax space occupied by Paul VI High School was an option at one point for United after the school confirmed plans to relocate to Loudoun.

To give you an idea of the land required to fit the club’s needs, training facilities in MLS range from about 15 acres for a training exclusive site (New York Red Bulls) to 45 for a multi-purpose site featuring youth fields (FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake), to accompany other functions than training. Sources close to the process told B&RU that the team felt they needed at least 25 acres total for operations (by comparison, Atlanta United’s facilities span 33 acres).

At a proposed 54 acres, the Loudoun site will be as large as the Seattle Soundersfacilities, while having the desired requirements for a USL stadium (Seattle’s facility does not meet the seating standard in that department, and their Sounders 2 team are playing their games offsite in 2018), so by 2019 it may very well serve as the largest site of its kind in MLS that houses training as well as a “B” team.

Moving along to Section 3.1, which says:

So long as this Agreement is in effect, Team will (subject to Force Majeure) maintain its principal offices within the District of Colombia.

The Post says that “...approximately 50 United employees would work in Leesburg,” citing the Loudoun government’s announcement in the process.

The relevant text of the Loudoun announcement is:

Approximately 50 employees would work at the United facility in Loudoun County, which is where the team would construct a training facility for its first team players, second division players, youth development program and offices to house business operations.

As you can see, the announcement makes no mention of “United” employees because the 50 employees in question are largely comprised of players who would attend the facility for training. As the contracts players have signed are with MLS due to the league’s single-entity structure, they are effectively MLS employees. As we’ll assume that D.C.’s roster will comprise at least 25 players come 2019, reducing the number of approximately 25 (less than a third of United employees) that would make the drive from wherever they reside to Leesburg.

Based on sources familiar with both processes and our reading of the Loudoun announcement, the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement, and other pertinent documents, it looks to us like there is no problem with the agreement, which the Loudoun Board should approve next month.