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Swope Park Rangers vs OKC Energy Postponed

No reason has been given but we’ll speculate wildly.

Thad Bell

The Swope Park Rangers and the United Soccer League announced on Thursday that Saturday’s home game against the OKC Energy FC has been postponed. The game was scheduled to take place today and be the Rangers debut on the new ESPN+ streaming platform. Instead the game “will be played at a later date.” The league did not announce when that date would be.

No one knows for sure, but the rumor is that it has something to do with the quality of the field at Shawnee Mission South. This is hardly the first time the USL has had issues with the field that the Rangers are playing on. In the 2017 playoffs, after torrential downpour during the first round game against Phoenix Rising, the game had to be completed a day later. Swope Park ultimately won a penalty kick shootout and then things got weird.

They were set to play the #8 Sacramento Republic FC in the second round and should have had a home game. Instead the league said the game would be played at the lower seeded Sacramento. Ultimately the team and league made things right and the Rangers played the rest of their home playoff games at Children’s Mercy Park. That whole drama came over the “field conditions” at Swope Park Soccer Village. The only issue was rain and the field drained just fine. The optics of playing playoff games in front of small crowds was likely the problem.

For the 2018 season the Rangers, ironically, were not going to be able to play at Swope Park anymore. The USL is a Division II league and that comes with a series of requirements. One of those requirements is to seat 5,000 fans (despite that the Rangers don’t really prioritize attendance success over development). In the past, the USL has gotten waivers for the Rangers to play in a smaller park. Starting this year, that doesn’t appear to be a thing (though Paulo Nagamura has a waiver to be a head coach since he doesn’t have the required license).

To resolve the capacity issue, the Swope Park Rangers struck a deal to play in a high school football stadium, Shawnee Mission South, which has a capacity of 7,500. It’s probably not the ideal place to play. It’s a turf field, instead of grass like Swope. It’s got permanent football lines painted on the field (which plainly doesn’t look good). And to the dismay of many fans, because it’s a high school, tailgating cannot include alcohol and it’s not sold in the stadium (which may be the reason for the brand switch from the SPR Zoo back to the Fountain City Ultras).

All of the above said about SMS, the Rangers played a game there against the Seattle Sounders II and no reports came out about issues. The following home game, due to a conflict at Shawnee Mission South, the Rangers play the Colorado Springs Switchbacks at CMP. Our own Thad Bell has confirmed there is no conflict this weekend.

We’ve reached out to the team and received the standard “no comment.” We’ve reached out to the league who hasn’t replied at all -- much like last year during the playoff debacle.

At this point, all we can do is speculate.

Nipun Chopra is being told that the game “was postponed due to the field at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium not meeting required standards.” If SMS doesn’t meet the standards, who approved SPR to play there? One has to think the USL sent someone out to approve the facility, especially after last year’s playoff situation, before the team could just start playing games there. Sporting Kansas City announced the new field on January 18th. The season didn’t start until two months later on March 17th. The USL appears to have dropped the ball.

I say SPR/SKC invest in 1,500 folding chairs and have them available for fans at Swope Soccer Village. That would get “capacity” to 5,000 and the field is superior to a high school football field any day. I say this in jest, as I’m sure that’s not allowed. Something has to be done as they have 15 home games left in the season. I’m travelling there at the end of May and hope to attend my first SPR home game, but let’s hope it’s resolved far earlier than that.

No matter what happens, Swope Park will be able to play on the road next week against Phoenix Rising in the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Scottsdale, Arizona. Capacity is 6,200, it’s grass, it’s in fantastic shape. That game will be available on ESPN+ for all to see.