Tonight the US Soccer team takes on undefeated Panama at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA. CenturyLink is home to both the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Sounders. Both the Sounders and Seahawks boast that they have the best home field advantage in their respective sport. Sure, most teams would say the same about their home, but for the Seattle teams it is actually true. In fact, the Sounders have led the MLS in attendance every year since they joined.
The sports market in the Pacific Northwest is absolutely blossoming. Rumors continue to swirl of the NHL,(Washington and Oregon already have a combined 5 incredibly successful Major Junior Hockey League teams) and the possible return of pro basketball have the area salivating.
It came as no surprise when the US Soccer Federation announced that both Portland and Seattle were in the mix to host a World Cup Qualifying match. Portland’s MLS Club, The Timbers also have a rabid fanbase and a terrific home field. Unfortunately, Timbers owner Merritt Paulson wouldn’t budge on his stance of refusing to temporarily sod JELD-WEN Field. Even though FIFA doesn’t have a problem with playing a qualifier on turf, US Soccer does.
Unlike their rival city, Seattle did oblige and placed sod down for tonight’s tilt.
The US Soccer Federation should be thankful that they did.
Playing in the 67,000 seat stadium provides a daunting task to any visiting squad who try to conquer its inhabitants. The stadium fills with noise and the Seattle climate is one of the more temperamental in the nation. Rain and a sea wind coming off the Pacific Coastline make it a tough place to adjust to.
When Panama and the US square off tonight, the Seattle fans will be on the best/worst behavior as fans and their presence will come through the tv screen. It will be loud, it will be wild, and it will be fun to watch from a couch 3,000 miles away.
The hexagonal round is the final round for qualifying in CONCACAF. Each team plays a home and away game versus the other five nations. Thus, home field advantage is extremely important to a team’s success.
This Sunday’s win in Jamaica was the first time the US has ever won a qualifier on Jamaican soil.
CONCACAF has some of the toughest environments to play in. Mexico’s Estadio Azteca is renowned for both its hostility and its elevation. Teams have to prepare to play in Azteca completely differently for other stadiums. Mexico uses the unique advantage Azteca provides for its soccer team by using it as their home field for every World Cup Qualifier. Honduras has a tendency to schedule their home games at the creepily prison-y looking Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano mid-afternoon when the humidity is at its crankiest.
Even though the United States has a terrific home record in its history, a home field advantage like its regional rivals would definitely help to keep US Soccer on the map.
Due to the sheer mass of the United States it is hard to pick one place to play all of its WCQ matches. In the land of equality, that would be sort of hypocritical. But, if the US was to pick a place to play Seattle would probably be the best choice.
With the climate that CenturyLink Field provides we’d be hard pressed to find a better or should I say worse place to play.