USMNT: What to do with Seattle
If there is anything in MLS that cannot be debated, it is that the Pacific Northwest has great fan support.
The tifo alone is some of the best in the country and could compete with the best in the world.
The question then is why doesn’t the United States Men’s National Team have a presence in Seattle or Portland.
Seattle specifically is a place that seems an obvious home for big games on US soil.
In 2012 the Seattle Sounders set an MLS record for average attendance for the fourth year in a row. This season’s average of 43,144 is not only impressive in America, but would be 11th highest in Germany, 6th in England, and 4th in both Spain and Italy.
One of the games in 2012 featured the second highest attendance for a single game in league history. When the Portland Timbers came to town 66,452 saw Seattle win 3-0. Beyond that there were at least 38,000 at each Sounders home game this season and there have been 67 straight sellouts for the franchise.
It is obvious that Seattle cares about soccer and the Sounders. How can USMNT not want a piece of that?
There have been games at Qwest/CenturyLink Field in the past.
The 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup saw a 4-1 USMNT win over Cuba and a 2-0 USMNT victory over Canada. The 2009 edition of the Gold Cup saw the USMNT beat Grenada 4-0. These were games played in a CONCACAF run tournament.
The last time a crowd saw the USMNT play in Seattle for a friendly (aka a game that the US Soccer Federation would have handpicked) was when Jovan Kirovski and Landon Donovan notched goals and Kasey Keller kept a shut out to beat Venezuela 2-0.
Since that 2003 friendly in Seattle, the USSF has scheduled 64 USMNT games in the United States and none of them have been in Seattle.
So why has the idea to play a Hexagonal match in Seattle never materialized?
There are a couple of issues that may be standing in the way of making the dream a reality. The small issues are location and venue sharing. With Seattle located all the way in the Pacific Northwest and a lot of the USMNT players playing in Europe there is an extra couple hours of travel time to get them to Seattle during short camps. The other CONCACAF Hexagonal opponents are also located to the South/Southeast of the United States creating more travel time during home and away match ups. With the Seattle Sounders sharing the same venue it can also limit the games that can take place there depending on scheduling conflicts.
The biggest hinderance though seems to be the rumors that the turf used at CenturyLink Field does not have many fans in the USSF offices. It should be pointed out that the FieldTurf has received a FIFA 2-star rating which takes into account “measurements to gauge shock absorption, foot stability, rotational resistance, linear friction and ball-to-surface interaction, among other items.” With the highest rating by FIFA it doesn’t seem that the turf should be an issue.
Why would the USSF hold out on the region if even FIFA approves of the surface?
In a recent statement Adrian Hanauer, general manager and part owner of the Seattle Sounders said “Well, that’s certainly a factor.” There is the option of bringing in temporary grass to put down to appease the USSF officials if need be.
It is what Hanauer later said in the same statement that has created the most buzz.
“Again, going back to maybe another reason why it hasn’t happened, we don’t just want to bring any old game here. If we bring a game we want it to have some meaning and be a game that our fans are realy going to enjoy, and not just be a money grab for U.S. Soccer.”
Team that with majority owner Joe Roth saying, “If the US men’s national team wants to come here with the first team and play a World Cup qualifier against a great team, we’ll be right there.”
The entire debate has changed focus at this point.
Is it the USSF that is holding out? Or is Seattle also playing hardball to get the game they want?
If Seattle is refusing to host a friendly, why are they then surprised that the USSF is reluctant to let them host an all-important home qualifying match?
Even though mlssoccer.com has mentioned sources that say Jurgen Klinsmann has made it a priority to “put the numbers, noise and passion of the Emerald City faithful to use on behalf of his team in one of five must-win games” it still comes down to USSF president Sunil Gulati and CEO Dan Flynn to decide what those qualifiers will be played. If Seattle is going to play the spoiled child and demand its way or the highway, there is a chance USSF will pick the highway to another city more willing to be flexible.
The venue for the March home friendly against Costa Rica should be announced in early January, but with the remaining home matches not taking place until June there could be some interesting conversations taking place in the new year.
Tell us what you think of the feud going on between the USSF and Seattle.
Who will break first? Will there be a home world cup qualifier or a friendly in Seattle first?
Or will there continue to be no games in the Pacific Northwest?