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Is Seattle creeping closer to landing a U.S. national team date?

Dec 17, 2012, 6:01 PM EDT

CenturyLink Field

Sooner or later, something’s got to give on Seattle as a U.S. national team venue.

The challenges are vast, but at some point the U.S. Soccer federation and officials from Seattle Sounders FC will need to sort out the details of how to match the United States men’s soccer team with the country’s top professional soccer market.

The Sounders just set an MLS attendance record (again!) with a league-leading average of 43,144. In fact, “league-leading” hardly does justice to the town’s dominance here. That whopper-eye-popper of a total was nearly double second-place Los Angeles.

The problem, of course, is down to two words: artificial turf.

Yes, FIFA has approved certain types of the fake stuff for international matches. That happened long ago. But – this is where the Seattle-as-U.S.-venue argument eludes many people – that does not mean that U.S. Soccer or the American players really want to play there.

No one is opposed to Seattle, believe me.  Heck, who doesn’t like good coffee, Pike Place salmon tossers, Mount Rainier and all of the city’s wonderful grunginess? Mostly, American players and officials all appreciate how the Pacific Northwest, and Seattle in particular, has embraced and enlivened domestic soccer. What’s not to love about it – except for that playing surface, that is?

They just don’t like playing on it.  If choices didn’t exist, everyone might think differently. But, clearly, there is a country full of juicy options out there. So from beyond Seattle, it’s a difficult choice to justify.

Yes, officials around CenturyLink could spend the $150,000 to lay a temporary grass field for one match. And how does that usually work out for everyone?

Let me tell you: people like me beat the hell out of U.S. Soccer for trying something that almost never works. The fields are bad, so the game looks bad and plays badly. The players complain (if only quietly), and rightly so, because safety is an issue at some point.

I know the fans in Seattle recoil when they see that (and they tend to get upset when journalists like me write it) but this is not my opinion. I promise you, I’m not making up this stuff! This is what I hear from players, coaches, staff and agents.

So we circle back around to CenturyLink Field – and to Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, for that matter – and its presumed need for artificial turf.

Personally, I’ve always just checked the box here beside “Imperfect World.” CenturyLink Field is where the Sounders need to be in 2012.  I have no problem with that.

CenturyLink needs artificial turf.  OK, fair enough.

The U.S. Soccer players do not enjoy playing on artificial turf. Therefore …

It’s an imperfect world, so we don’t see important U.S. match there.

Or … Will we? All that said, Seattle Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer seemed to hint at something in today’s piece from The Seattle Times’ Joshua Mayers:

 … 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 really going to enjoy, and not just be a money grab for U.S. Soccer. That is something that we’re working on, and with a little bit of luck and some hard work, we might have something that we can hopefully hang out hats on in the near future here.”

I’m not sure what that means in terms of U.S. venues and the important matches coming up in 2013.

My best guess at the moment: you won’t see one of the World Cup qualifiers there in 2013, but there is a Gold Cup tournament to be played.

(MORE: Sunil Gulati on venue selection for World Cup final round qualifying)

Last time Seattle hosted the national team, by the way: during the 2009 Gold Cup.

  1. dfstell - Dec 17, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    It’s almost too fun to troll Seattle fans on this topic because they’re so touchy and lack anything like a sense of humor about….well…anything. :)

    But, it would make a passionate place for the national team to play.

    On the other hand, are we lacking for places? It seems like we’ve got more and more places that can put on a very partisan crowd without the surface and time zone problems.

    • randomhookup - Dec 17, 2012 at 6:45 PM

      True, but I would like to see how Mexico reacts.

  2. zoophagous - Dec 17, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    This is a problem with no easy answers.

    It’s not just a matter of putting grass into the stadium. I think real grass is everyone’s first choice. But currently 2 football teams are using CLink for home games. With a third using it part time. If there were real grass in CLink soccer games from August through November would be played on a surface much worse than what’s there currently.

    I think a solution does need to be found. Bring the USMNT team to Seattle and let them see a US stadium with 67,000 cheering supporters of US soccer. Maybe it helps keep some of the US players in the US, preferably in Rave Green. Bring the USMNT team to Seattle against Mexico, maybe 67,000 singing fans turn out to be that extra little edge for our boys.

    • chonefigginsishitless - Dec 17, 2012 at 9:43 PM

      Actually it is only one team that plays there regularly now, the Seahawks.

      The Huskies are back at Husky Stadium next year and the Coug play one game a year there, I guess that’s barely part time.

      This year they put in new turf so it must be better than the several years old turf.

      Bring the USMNT to Seattle for a meaningful game only, not a friendly.

  3. joeyt360 - Dec 17, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    I dunno. Could be a manipulative technique by Hanauer. One of the most time-honored ways of putting something off forever is to make the perfect out to be the enemy of the good.

  4. ndnut - Dec 17, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    Is it completely out of the question to use Safeco Field (the baseball stadium) which has real grass?

  5. charliej11 - Dec 17, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    Funny how kids growing up in Seattle like the turf better. Just saying. You seem to be in the know on guys that would be playing and I get the concept, but I think it tends to be overblown.

  6. Dan - Dec 18, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    Wouldn’t some other venues that have the capacity to hold a friendly but perhaps are not necessarily known for the soccer-friendly vibe be a good idea at some point? Take Charlotte for instance. Again, just thinking out loud. I am sure there is a reason why this is not being done.

  7. 1022555a - Dec 18, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    No theyre not, dont stir the pot NBC. We want a soccer venue for our boys, not a football stadium.

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