ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Saturday is the first time since 2019 New Mexico United fans could cheer on the club at an official watch party. It was for the season opener against Rio Grande Valley FC Toros. “You know what,” fan Rick Sleeter said. “It was time to come and watch some soccer.”

It is the first time in more than a year the United faithful have been able to cheer together in Albuquerque. Rick and Debbie Sleeter describe themselves as super fans with season tickets. “When it comes to the love of the game and watching this team, I rank pretty high,” Rick said.

They were two of several hundred who joined the New Mexico United season opener watch party Saturday night at Civic Plaza. “It is amazing to be outside again for a little bit,” Rick said. “This is really the first big thing we have done. My wife and I are teachers. We have been at home and to actually be out here with people has been amazing.”

Pre-registration for the 140 socially-distanced six-person pods filled up in under two hours. “They found a way to bring the crowd back together, but you are comfortable here, and you want to be here,” Debbie said.

This comes after the governor announced this week that Bernalillo County advanced to the green level of the state’s reopening framework effective Friday. “We had this planned with restrictions of the yellow order,” New Mexico United Director of Innovation Lukas Cash said. “With her announcement, we weren’t able to do a whole lot in terms of adding capacity because we sold everything we had, but future events will be influenced by that.”

People grabbed food, beer, new merchandise, and caught up with friends. “The best thing is absorbing the energy from everybody,” Rick said. “You miss that. You don’t get it when you are all by yourself.”

The Sleeters said they are happy to finally support the team with the rest of the fanbase. “Being able to come out here again just to be with these people for the first time in a year and a half… It doesn’t get any better than this,” Rick said.

The team’s home opener is May 15. Their capacity was just boosted to 50% at Isotopes Park, meaning up to 6,000 fans in the stands. They’ve already sold half of those tickets and are releasing more on Monday for games one and two.