A Guide to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary

Are you headed to the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary for a soccer game? Maybe to watch the ACC Finals or the NCAA College Cup? Or, how about a professional soccer game to watch the men’s North Carolina FC or women’s NC Courage?

Soccer fans in a stadium watching a soccer match
WakeMed Soccer Park

No matter your reason for visiting, we know you’ll have a great time! This guide to the Cary soccer venue will help make your visit easier regarding parking, seating, food and tickets and and will save you time researching this yourself.

Keep reading below as we’ll also share a few tips for things to do in Cary while you’re here – some of our favorite spots as a local resident in Raleigh.

Why soccer in Cary?

Girls soccer team in a huddle before a game
UNC women’s team

Cary is one of the best places in the USA for soccer and known to be the college soccer capital of the USA. 

WalletHub compared more than 290 U.S. cities (NOV 2022) with at least one college or professional soccer team across five divisions and examined each based on 52 key metrics. 

Cary came in 17th overall for best soccer cities in the US, ranking number 1 for best performing for the NWSL soccer teams, and number 3 for best midsize city.

We have attended a game here several times to see ACC college soccer games, to watch the NC Courage, and we even saw the USA Women’s national team play just after they won the 2019 World Cup. We even got to see the World Cup trophy on display at the Stadium!

Soccer fans watching a game
NC Courage game
Soccer fans watching a game
ACC women’s game. UNC vs Duke
family posing in front of trophies
World Cup trophies

The NCAA Women’s College Cup will be held here in 2022 and 2023, plus the 2023 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship. If you’re visiting for that, let us know in the comments who you’re supporting? We are big UNC fans!

As parents, we’re very happy our daughter is playing soccer in North Carolina in an area that has such a strong program for it. 

About WakeMed Soccer Park

Soccer fans watching a game
Main stand on the eastern side

This popular soccer park near Raleigh in Wake County is a 150-acre multi-use complex operated by the Town of Cary, which opened in 2002. 

It consists of a soccer-specific stadium called Sahlen’s Stadium, two lighted practice fiends and four additional fields. Sahlen’s Stadium can seat 10,000 people. 

A world-class cross country course also encircles the park which has 5K, 6K and 8K courses!

Who plays at WakeMed Soccer Park?

This soccer park is the home of the NC Courage professional women’s soccer team who play in the National Women’s Soccer League. It’s now also home to the professional men’s soccer team, North Carolina FC, who play in the USL League One, the third tier of the American league system.

Soccer fans watching a game
Mother and daughter taking a selfie
Mommy & daughter cheering on the Tar Heels

Major tournaments are regularly held here such as the NCAA College Cup, the ACC Soccer Championships, and the NCHSAA high school state soccer finals.

WakeMed is also home to the Nike National Cross Country Championship qualifier, Great American XC Festival, and the Adidas XC challenge. During the Fall, thousands come to Cary to participate in Cross Country. 

The Game Day Experience 

If you’re like me, you want to come prepared for the game so you can just relax, find a car park, get to your seats easily, and have a great time! 

Tickets

People lined up at the entrance of a soccer stadium

Always check the ticket conditions of the game you are attending. Our ACC women’s tournament playoff games were general admission (free for kids under 18) and only $10 for adults, and we had to purchase them online!

But the professional teams do have walk up tickets available and different prices. 

I recommend you buy tickets online anyway, that way you know you have a seat, and you don’t have to deal with any delays. 

You can download the tickets to your phone which makes it very easy to get through the gates. There is an East, West, and South Gate. The East Gate will always be open. The South gate will provide easy access too and from the back parking lots, so save walking time by accessing it that way. 

People entering the gates of a stadium

Gates open one hour prior to kick-off for regular season games. Check the schedule of your game to see if there are any pre-game shows or entertainment. As mentioned before, we got to see the World Cup trophy at the pregame entertainment for the USA team. 

There may be inflatables and interactive games for the kids for the bigger professional matches. Professional soccer games also have theme nights with special activities, entertainment, and promotions.

Get tickets for:

Views and Seating

Soccer fans watching a game of soccer

The soccer park is not in a developed area, so it’s surrounded by natural forest, which means a tranquil environment for watching soccer. 

All the seats have great views of the game at WakeMed – you won’t miss any of the action. I also love the beautiful views of the forested Cary environment. 

If you’re here for an evening game, sunset views are pretty, and on our most recent game experience last week, I loved looking out to see the colors of Fall. 

Soccer fans watching a game of soccer
Pretty at sunset

For close up views of the action – and to see replays – there is a giant video board above the south stand.

For big games, we suggest arriving early so you can choose the best seats, as sometimes they are general admission. NC Courage and North Carolina FC will be numbered seats!

There are three different types of seating, mostly open-air, at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary!

On the East side, there are lower level sideline seats with bleachers and then an upper level, which still offers a great view of the game. The seats are a little more comfortable as they have a back rest. 

I quite liked the seats right on the edge of the upper level – they are more spacious and feel more private as it’s smaller one row sections.

Soccer fans watching a game of soccer
View from upper level, east side

We actually sat in a section where there were only 3 seats – perfect for our group of three! I loved stretching my legs out to the side and not having to squish past people if we needed to get out to go to the restrooms. It’s right near the walkway so you may have people standing around you but it wasn’t annoying. 

The West Side only has sideline seating, with a section for premier midfield seating. That section has more comfortable seating with a back. 

Soccer fans watching a game
Looking towards the western side

North and South stands in the end zones are one level bleacher seating. 

For smaller games, the West Side is often closed, as might be the North and South side. There are also suites and an owner’s box. 

Soccer fans watching a game of soccer
Large video board at South end

Handicap-accessible seating is available. Reach out to the soccer park beforehand so you can ensure it’s organized for you. 

We’ve had beautiful weather each time we’ve visited. If it rains there will be little coverage, so come prepared with rain jackets (no umbrellas allowed).

 If it’s a hot sunny day, it can be intense sitting in the direct sunlight. Be sure to wear hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. 

Concessions Food + Drink

Ladies soccer team in a huddle before a game

You’re at a sporting event, expect long lines, higher prices, and fried food. I recommend eating before or after your game either at home, in Downtown Cary, or tailgating.

There is a concession stand as soon as you walk in and one near the South Gate, which is kind of tucked away. Lines may be shorter here, but you won’t have a view of the game while you wait. I missed the first goal of the recent ACC women’s championship game between UNC and Florida State while waiting. 

But, as I hate lining up, I decided to wait until the game started playing instead of the long lines you’ll get pre-game and during half time. 

When opened, there is a concession stand on the West side of the stadium. 

Expect typical event food: hamburgers, fries, hot dogs, nachos, soft pretzels, and chicken nuggets. A cheeseburger with fries cost us $11, while 4 chicken tenders were $7, and a bottle of water $4.50. I recommend bringing in a sealed water bottle, and then refilling it from the drinking fountains in the park. 

Tables with food

The concession stands are run by Backyard Bistro, one of the popular sports bars in Raleigh located right near PNC Arena (home of the Carolina Hurricanes NHL team), the NC State Fair, and Carter-Finley Stadium – home of NC State Wolfpack Football. We like going to Backyard Bistro before a game or concert sometimes!)

There are smaller drink stations set up around the park, which usually don’t have lines, so if you’re thirsty you can grab a beer there.

They do sell local NC craft beer and Truly seltzer. But I truly wish they had a better selection of cider or seltzer for the gluten free drinkers as Truly is as exciting as drinking a Bud Light!

parking at WakeMed Soccer Park?

people walking into wakemed soccer park
Entrance to WakeMed Soccer Park

There are 2,600 parking spaces at WakeMed Soccer Park. Whether it’s free or not depends on what game you’re seeing. 

For the ACC women’s semi-final and final, parking was free. But for the NCFC games, on the website it says a $10 charge. Purchase the parking pass online to save you time as well as money – parking prices increase at the gate!

There are some streets across the train line from the soccer fields where you can park for free. It should make it quicker to leave as well. Traffic can be at a standstill getting out when a busy game is over.

Girls playing soccer

For the ACC final, there were over 3,000 people in attendance. It took us about 10-minutes to get into the stadium to get a parking spot, and about 15-minutes to get out – and we were near the beginning of the crowds leaving. 

Parking lots generally open two and a half hours before the game. I did see some people tailgating and yes, it is permitted. If you do come in earlier, park as close as you can to the soccer park entry so you can get out faster. 

What can you bring into the Stadium?

Girl soccer player on a video screen at a stadium

Not much! No outside food or drink is allowed. You can bring bottle water as long as it is a sealed (never before opened) bottle. 

I HATE this rule, only because it’s a DISASTER for the environment. Stadiums simply need to do better. Find a way to let people bring in their own reusable bottles. Ok, rant over. 

The next most important thing to remember is Sahlen’s Stadium has a CLEAR BAG POLICY. This is more common now for any major sporting event, concert or festival. 

The best thing to do is buy yourself a clear bag – here’s a few affordable ones on Amazon – and have it available for your festival and event experiences. 

Empty seats at a soccer stadium

You can bring in clutch purses (no larger than 4.5” x 6.5”) are allowed, so they have to be really small.

I’ve been caught out multiple times at different events and venues with a bag that is small, but still not small enough. I saw several people turned away at the gates at WakeMed Soccer park because their purses were too big.

For parents, you can bring in diaper bags as long as you have a baby or infant with you!

You cannot bring cameras with detachable lenses, selfie sticks, non-collapsible strollers, umbrellas, Go Pros, video cameras, flags with poles, and other things I’m sure you know like animals, illegal substances, etc. 

RELATED POST: Where to watch the soccer World Cup in the Triangle.

Directions to WakeMed Soccer Park

The address is 101 Soccer Park Dr, Cary, NC 27511 (Google maps link). Driving distance from Raleigh-Durham Airport is approximately 15-20 minutes, and from downtown Raleigh 15-20 minutes.

Watch our Video from WakeMed Soccer Park:

Acommodation near WakeMed Soccer Park

mayton inn cary nc
The Mayton Inn

There are a few hotels in close proximity to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary:

  • Hampton Inn & Suites Raleigh/Cary I-40 (PNC Arena): Located just off Interstate 40, this hotel is one mile from the soccer park (20 minute walk) and 13 minutes from RDU. It serves a hot buffet breakfast every morning and features a modern fitness center that overlooks an outdoor pool surrounded by a lush forest. Check availability and rates.
  • Hyatt Place Raleigh / Cary: This hotel is about 1.5 miles from the stadium (30 minute walk), right off the interstate, and 13 minutes to RDU. It has a swimming pool and jacuzzi. Check availability and rates.
  • The Mayton Inn, Downtown Cary: Only 2 miles from the soccer park, this boutique hotel is the perfect location for those wanting to walk to Downtown Cary’s restaurants, bars and breweries. Their Peck & Plume restaurant is popular for brunch and cocktails. Book your stay here.

See all hotels in Cary. And if you’re looking for accommodation in Raleigh, it’s only a 15-20 minute drive from the soccer park. Here are the best downtown Raleigh hotels.

If you want to stay near Raleigh-Durham Airport (15-20 minute drive away) check out these hotels.

What to do near WakeMed Soccer Park

There is plenty to do in the Cary area while you wait for the game to start, or to celebrate after. 

Downtown Cary

THINGS TO DO IN DOWNTOWN CARY – YOUR GUIDE TO A WEEKEND GETAWAY
Downtown Cary

Downtown Cary has the charm of an All American historical city, but with modern sophistication.

Eight years ago, it was a ghost town, now it is a hip area with breweries, cideries, great local restaurants, a soon to be opened wine bar, and in 2023 a seven acre community park. Check the schedule for any events or festivals you may tie in with your visit.

Read our full guide to Downtown Cary.

Our favorite places to eat & drink in Cary

Explore Fenton

Fenton, Cary, NC

Only a 5-minute drive form WakeMed Soccer Park is Fenton, a new mixed-use development with dining, shopping and entertainment. Check their event schedule as you may time your trip with a free yoga class, artisan markets, ice skating (in the winter) or live music. 

Our picks are Dram & Draught Whiskey Bar, or the Cru Food & Wine Bar for a drink. Our kids love Honeysuckle Gelato and seeing a movie at Paragon Theater.

We have not eaten at any of the restaurants in Fenton yet, but they all get rave reviews.

Downtown Apex

colorful buildings downtown apex
Downtown Apex

We also love Downtown Apex, which is a short 10 – 15 minute drive from Cary. It made our list of best small towns in the USA for its colorfully restored antique shops, specialty stores, and restaurants.

Founded in the 1860s, Apex, North Carolina is considered one of the most intact turn-of-the-century railroad towns in the area. The Downtown Historic District is centered around Salem Street and is recognized by the National Register of Historic Place.

Oh, and if you want to visit Raleigh, it’s only a 15-20 minute drive to downtown Raleigh. Here is our 48-hour guide to Raleigh.

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