Sometime on Sunday afternoon outside of JELD-WEN Field in Portland, ten busses will pull up filled with upwards of 600 members of the Emerald City Supporters.
Most will have traveled for over four hours in the chartered busses to support the Sounders FC in their Cascadia Cup clash with the Portland Timbers and will undoubtedly provide quite a show for the national television audience on ESPN.
However, the preparation for the match is months in the making and at the center of it all is Aaron Reed.
The 36-year-old Washington State alum has headed the ECS travelling support since 2010, organizing transportation and tickets, as well as beer for the busses or a bar to serve as headquarters.
“It’s no small thing to charter ten busses. Sometimes they need a little bit of convincing,” Reed laughed. “If you tell them you’re a soccer group, they look at you sideways.”
The travelling support section was boosted for this year’s Cascadia matches, with Seattle’s allocation increasing from 500 tickets for the 2011 season to 750 for each of the two matches in Portland and Vancouver in 2012.
Reed’s work isn’t limited to the group that will travel to Portland and Vancouver though.
He also handles all the other trips, which sometimes means spending time convincing ticket sales representatives around the league that he is indeed trying to secure over 100 tickets to accommodate visiting supporters.
“For the first couple of years, when I would call teams, they would laugh at me. They thought I was making it up that I’d need 125 tickets in New York. When I’d call back later prepared to buy 150 tickets, you can hear the sound of their jaw hitting the floor,” Reed said. “Our credibility and our reputation has borne itself out and is proven. I’m not met with a lot of skepticism anymore. The ticket reps love me. I think I’m their favorite phone call of the year. They all have a good appreciation for what we do and they’ve become more receptive.”
Boosted by an increasing network of ECS sub-groups around the country, the Sounders FC has become the most well-represented club in terms of support in the league.
Those sub-groups include members of the LA-based SoCal Sound, 30 members of the Bay Area Sounders Supporters, around 150 members of Seattle Sounders East on the east coast, 40 in the Heartland Horde in the Midwest and around 30 members of Third Coast, a group in the Great Lakes area that frequents matches in Columbus and Chicago.
The camaraderie of the group is shown brightest during the Cascadia matches when, despite departing as the sun is rising, the festive mood is at its peak.
“Everybody shows up a bit bleary-eyed at 7 o’clock in the morning, but once they’re on the bus with their friends and sipping on a drink and the songs start getting sung, next thing you know, we’re taking over a rest area and having a grand old time,” Reed said.
This year, the passengers on the busses will be fueled by kegs donated to the ECS by Red Hook Brewery for the trip. That means that the ECS-inspired No Equal amber ale will be flowing freely for much of the trip down.
It’s all part of an adventure they embark upon in support of the Sounders FC.
“We’ve proven that we can be a showcase for soccer in a positive way and when we’re given more tickets we can make it even larger,” Reed said. “When all 10 busses pull up to JELD-WEN Field, it will be a sight to behold.”
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. with television coverage on ESPN and the radio broadcast on 97.3 KIRO FM.