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. Borussia Dortmund fans pay tribute to Jurgen Klopp with massive tifo

    May 23, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT

    Klopp Getty Images

    The final home match for one of Dortmund’s most successful managers is looking to be a special one at Westfalenstadion.

  2. Report: Robin van Persie offered gigantic contract by Qatari club

    May 23, 2015, 9:34 AM EDT

    VanPersie Getty Images

    The future of Robin van Persie at Old Trafford is very much in doubt as a former Premier League manager has given the Dutchman a very tough decision.

  3. Sami Khedira confirms the obvious, that he will leave Real Madrid this summer

    May 23, 2015, 8:50 AM EDT

    Khedira Getty Images

    We all knew it already, but Sami Khedira will leave Real Madrid after five seasons. Where will he land?

  4. Premier League scenarios: Europa League and relegation requirements

    May 23, 2015, 8:18 AM EDT

    HullCity Getty Images

    How can Hull City or Newcastle avoid relegation? Who will qualify for the Europa League? Find out all the scenarios for the final day here.

  5. MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew 2-2 Chicago Fire

    May 22, 2015, 10:31 PM EDT

    Toronto FC v Chicago Fire Getty Images

    Final: Columbus Crew 2-2 Chicago Fire

  6. Paris Saint-Germain submit $137,662,500 bid for Cristiano Ronaldo

    May 22, 2015, 9:52 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    PSG is willing to dish out the cash to bring Ronaldo to France. The problem? He would have to leave his built-up glory at Madrid behind him.

  7. PST Extra: High stakes for Hull City, Newcastle as relegation looms

    May 22, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    Hull City v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s Joe-Prince Wright discussed the final relegation battle between Hull City and Newcastle United.

  8. Roberto Mancini hoping for Inter revival through transfers: “It won’t be easy”

    May 22, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT

    Parma FC v AS Roma - Serie A Getty Images

    Mancini: “If we find players with the right characteristics, we’ll be able to improve the existing players in our squad as well. It won’t be easy….”

  9. Hervé Renard quits as Ivory Coast manager, expected to join French side Lille

    May 22, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    herve-renard_1t6shrsqreusp1jyiv4zvva8cz Getty Images

    Ivory Coast manager Hervé Renard is leaving on good terms and with a new challenge ahead of him at Lille.

  10. 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup: Mexico names Chicharito, Carlos Vela, others on roster

    May 22, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT

    Chicharito Getty Images

    Mexico will have a roster full of their talent from Europe for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

  11. Despite calling himself the “godfather” of women’s soccer, Sepp Blatter didn’t recognize Alex Morgan

    May 22, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    FIFA President Sepp Blatter addresses the media in Zurich Reuters

    FIFA president Blatter called himself the “godfather” of women’s soccer earlier this month, yet he couldn’t recognize one of the biggest stars in the game.

  12. Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Sunderland

    May 22, 2015, 4:40 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Preview of Chelsea-Sunderland match on Championship Sunday, available to watch on NBCSN beginning at 10 a.m. ET.

  13. Americans Abroad preview: Guzan benched, Friedel could make farewell appearance

    May 22, 2015, 3:54 PM EDT

    Colchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    As usual, several Americans are ready to take the pitch in Europe this weekend.

  14. Premier League Preview: Newcastle United vs. West Ham United

    May 22, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    Newcastle United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    If the Magpies win they will survive on the final day. Watch them host West Ham live on USA, online via Live Extra, 10 a.m. ET.

  15. Report: Bad-boy Dani Osvaldo linked with move to New York Red Bulls

    May 22, 2015, 2:52 PM EDT

    Dani Osvaldo, Inter Milan Dani Osvaldo, Inter Milan

    Are the Red Bulls willing to take a risk on Osvaldo to bolster their attacking options?

  16. Premier League Preview: Hull City vs. Manchester United

    May 22, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Hull City - Premier League Getty Images

    Can the Tigers pull off a “great escape” on the final day? Watch live on NBC at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday.

  17. Louis van Gaal believes David De Gea will stay at Manchester United

    May 22, 2015, 1:20 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    The Red Devils boss is confident DDG will be around next season.

  18. TV SCHEDULE: Premier League finale – 10 games, 10 channels on Championship Sunday

    May 22, 2015, 12:40 PM EDT

    CFnp4ZXUMAEF99h

    Here’s how and where to watch every PL game on the final day of the season.

  19. Geoff Cameron takes us behind-the-scenes at Stoke City

    May 22, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    Geoff is finishing the season strong and is working on his upper-body. Geoff is finishing the season strong and is working on his upper-body.

    In his latest blog, our man in the PL gives us a glimpse of what life is like at Stoke’s training ground.

Featured video

PST Extra: Relegation drama on final day