Skip to content

Are we inching closer to NFL crowds being the norm in Seattle?

Jun 9, 2013, 4:17 AM EDT

SEATTLE, Wash. – Sounders FC have become renown for their transcendent crowds, but their Major League Soccer-leading numbers always come with an implicit caveat. The team rarely opens up all sections of CenturyLink Field, the usual 38,500 capacity well below what the venue seats (67,000 for Seahawks games). On days when a Portland comes to town with four-digits worth of travelling fans, that normal limit can be pushed to exceed 40,000. But under normal circumstances, Seattle chooses to live within their self-defined limits.

On Saturday, Sounders FC loosened the reins, opened the gates and drew 53,679 for their 3-2 victory over the rival Whitecaps, the first of a four-pack of games that will pad the team’s already prodigious attendance numbers. The pack offers summer games against high-quality opponents for a price that targets the casual fan ($60 per pack), a combination that’s fueled Seattle’s NFL-esque numbers. Buyers also get access to playoff tickets.

“We love big crowds. We seem to do well,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said after the game, his team improving to 5-0-0 in front of crowds of 50,000 or more. ” We wanted to keep the game exciting and close … It had a tremendous atmosphere.”

Last season, in games against Chelsea, LA Galaxy, Vancouver, and Portland, the Sounders drew 236,387 fans, more than Chivas USA, San Jose, or D.C. United collected over their entire 17-match MLS home schedules. And with no friendly on the schedule this season (Chelsea drew the lowest attendance of last year’s four-pack), Seattle could set a new standard for what looks set to become a mid-season tradition.

With that tradition, however, comes familiarity. While drawing over 50,000 to a Major League Soccer game is always noteworthy and come with an undeniably “tremendous” atmosphere, at some point, there’s no new story to tell. For a team that has played in front of five such crowds over the last three regular seasons, what would be record numbers for most teams becomes something that carries expectations.

“It’s a responsibility,” goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said after Seattle’s victory. “If so many [fans] are coming, we don’t want to disappoint them.”

The Sounders didn’t, though after poor defending on set pieces gave Camilo two first early goals, the team went into halftime down 2-1. But thanks to Servando Carrasco’s first career goal (a penalty kick) and Lamar Neagle’s late winner, Seattle won their fifth in sixth games. After an aimless start that saw the MLS Cup-aspirants spend March in the West’s cellar, Saturday’s win vaulted the Sounders into fourth place.

Whether the huge crowd actually had anything to do with result is impossible to say, but for those on the field, the atmosphere was mattered.

“You can sense the energy,” Schmid explained. “It gives you a different feeling when you walk onto the field. The guys recognize that and respond to that.

“Is that the reason that we score goals and win games entirely? Probably not, but right now we’ll keep it going.”

And they’ll have a chance to keep it going in front of what could be even bigger crowds. Last season, the highest attended game of the four-pack was the last one, and although their derby with Portland played a big part in drawing 66,452 people, it’s easy to see casual fans made aware of the special occasions gravitating to CenturyLink as the four-pack moves on.

“We were able to showcase ourselves in front of people who normally don’t get to come to our game,” Schmid said, describing the evening’s crowd. For a team that normally draws just short of 40,000, that meant entertaining over 10,000 people who would not have otherwise had access to tickets.

It forces you to consider: What would happen if Seattle opened the upper deck on a permanent basis? Yes, there are cost issues with staffing the upper level, and if you offer those cheaper seats, will people currently spending more of better seats gravitate toward the bargains? Regardless, with every huge crowd the question comes up: With the Sounders able to consistently break 50,000 for these games, why not go for that number on a regular basis?

This time of year, the weather is right. And with games against Portland, Real Salt Lake, and the LA Galaxy still to come, there is some reason to think that these particular games are predisposed to draw more. Would enough people come if Seattle were hosting an Eastern Conference bottom feeder in late winter?

That’s the worst-case scenario – an inappropriate standard for assessing Seattle’s drawing power. Instead, the better approach would be to look at the entire schedule and judge whether opening the upper deck all the time is cost-effective, something the Sounders have undoubtedly done. After Saturday’s big crowd, though, it remains to be seen whether Sounder nation is inching closer to a magic number that would see CenturyLink’s upper deck opened full-time.

Latest Posts
  1. QPR reject $18 million Leicester City bid for Charlie Austin

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    With Queens Park Rangers relegated to the Championship, the club wants to get top dollar for star striker Charlie Austin.

  2. FOLLOW LIVE — Copa America: Peru and Paraguay clash for third place

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:34 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwe1ytrimtq3yjfiy2i0n2q5mtyyowm1nwe5ngq5ztfj AP

    Pride is on the line as Peru and Paraguay look to take home third place at the 2015 Copa America.

  3. Nicolas Anelka named manager of Indian side Mumbai City FC

    Jul 3, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    KUWAIT-FRANCE-ANELKA-ISLAM-YOUTH-CONFERENCE Getty Images

    Anelka now a manager? Oh how times have changed…

  4. World players’ union FIFPro opens door to women for first time in 50-year history

    Jul 3, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    Theo van Seggelen of Fifpro during the International friendly match between Netherlands and Spain on March 31, 2015 at the Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Women’s players can get representation from FIFPro for the first time in the continued fight for equality.

  5. Sale of West Bromwich Albion nearly complete

    Jul 3, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    The West Midlands club released a statement today that new ownership should be in place “by the end of this month.”

  6. Fiorentina could take legal action against Mohamed Salah

    Jul 3, 2015, 3:33 PM EDT

    Mohamed Salah AP

    Fiorentina has lawyered up as the Chelsea winger has reportedly refused to return to the club on another loan.

  7. How will USMNT line up vs. Guatemala in final pre-Gold Cup friendly?

    Jul 3, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup Belgium US AP

    Three suggested lineups for Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of the USA vs. Guatemala on Friday.

  8. Friday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Coleman to Manchester United, race for Praet

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    seamus_coleman AP

    Another day, another healthy dollop of gossip from around the Premier League.

  9. Friday night football! Aston Villa vs. Manchester United moved due to EDL march

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Get ready for some PL action under the lights on a Friday night. Well, one game on a Friday, at least.

  10. Slaven Bilic called “The Special One,” accused of disrespect after West Ham’s Europa League qualifier

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT

    West Ham United v FC Lusitans - UEFA Europa League Getty Images

    Hammers boss is, well, hammered, for not standing in the dugout in a Europa League qualifier.

  11. Chelsea confirm season-long loan deal for Radamel Falcao

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    Radamel Falcao AP

    “El Tigre” has landed with the reigning Premier League champs. Good business from Mourinho?

  12. MLS preview: Timbers vs. Earthquakes, Galaxy vs. Toronto FC headline Week 18

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy

    The second half of the MLS season kicks off Friday night. We’ve got four must-watch games for all to see.

  13. UEFA lifts Financial Fair Play sanctions on Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain

    Jul 3, 2015, 8:40 AM EDT

    Sergio Aguero Sergio Aguero

    Fans of the Citizens and Les Parisiens get ready for a summer of big spending…

  14. US Vice President Joe Biden to attend USWNT’s World Cup final vs. Japan

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT

    150703_JoeBiden Getty Images

    Biden’s love for soccer continues to grow, as a presidential delegation is heading to Vancouver.

  15. VIDEO: Freddy Adu scores free kick for a fourth-division reserve team in Finland

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:03 PM EDT

    Freddy Adu

    The end is nigh for Freddy Adu’s professional soccer career, isn’t it? This has to be as low as it goes.

  16. USA vs. Guatemala preview: USMNT’s final tune-up before 2015 Gold Cup

    Jul 2, 2015, 10:05 PM EDT

    150703_JurgenKlinsmann Getty Images

    One last chance for Jurgen Klinsmann to tinker and fine-tune before the USMNT defends its Gold Cup title.

  17. Drama of semifinal now over, Japan ready to defend Women’s World Cup title vs. USA

    Jul 2, 2015, 8:53 PM EDT

    150703_JapanWomensWorldCup Getty Images

    Japan head coach Norio Sasaki: “I do not feel badly for Laura Bassett.”

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip