North American Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise DC United has broken ground on its new stadium Audi Field.

An estimated 500 people gathered to mark the occasion, including MLS commissioner Don Garber, head coach Ben Olsen, and USMNT player and United home-grown product Bill Hamid.

Also in attendance were District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, United managing general partner Jason Levien and Audi of America president Scott Keogh.

The more than half-a-billion-dollar project is due to be completed by 2018. Next week, United will file for its superstructure permit to start erecting steel structure above grade.

The 20,000-capacity stadium in the Southwest Waterfront District will also feature 31 luxury suites, a bike valet, and 500,000 total square feet of mixed-use retail and residential space on site.

“[Audi Field] will create jobs, create opportunity, hope and development,” Garber said. “What is now sand and dirt in a year and a half’s time will be a state-of-the-art, world-class facility that’s going to give [Washington] international exposure beyond that which it already has. It’s going to be a great cathedral for our sport. Congratulations.”

United confirmed earlier this month that it had reached an agreement with German automotive manufacturer Audi for naming rights to the stadium. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Washington Post newspaper reported at the time that the agreement would be “one of the largest” in MLS, running for at least 12 years.