With their new broadcast agreement with Major League Soccer, NBC is slated to show three regular season matches on the national network in addition to the 38 shown on the newly-branded NBC Sports.
After the Sounders FC had incredible fan support in their MLS debut season in 2009 and the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC followed suit in 2011, a Cascadia Cup match was the natural starting point for the first match of the season shown over major network television.
That coverage will kick off on Saturday when the Sounders meet the Timbers at JELD-WEN Field in Portland.
“It’s good for the sport in this country and good for the sport in the northwest,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s a good advertisement for the sport.”
For the first time since June 29, 2008, an MLS regular season match will be broadcast on national network television when the Sounders and Timbers clash at JELD-WEN Field in the first of three MLS matches this season that will be played on NBC.
In the last regular season over-the-air match, DC United trounced the LA Galaxy 4-1 with 35,979 on hand at RFK Stadium.
Current Sounders FC defender Marc Burch subbed on for an injured Santino Quaranta in the 27th minute with the match just leveled by an Edson Buddle goal. Burch would assist on the game-winning goal just ten minutes later.
Later that year, Schmid would lead the Columbus Crew over the New York Red Bulls 3-1 in the last MLS match of any kind broadcast over network television.
And while the national broadcast puts the spotlight on this match, it doesn’t add any pressure to an already pressure-packed match.
“I think it’s special. It’s not added pressure. I think over the course of the year, we put a good brand of soccer on the field. It’s a good time to showcase – everybody gets NBC,” said Sounders midfielder Brad Evans, who started in midfield for the MLS Cup-winning Crew side in 2008. “Hopefully more people tune in and get a chance to see the way that we play, but also Portland’s atmosphere. We’re just looking for a better result than last time.”
For their part, the Sounders are not focused on the importance of a match being shown on the big stage as they are with the implications of the points at stake on the field.
“We try not to worry about it that way,” Schmid said. “The game means a lot for us because the Cascadia Cup is important to us and right now we are six points behind San Jose and we want to put ourselves in the position that if they slip we can close that gap.”
While they keep their steely-gazed focus on the field, off the field, the club is proud of what has been built in Cascadia, where all three clubs are selling out stadiums week-in and week-out with a passionate fanbase that is the gold standard in the league.
That the network chose the derby match for its debut is a direct reflection of that.
“Everybody knows that the Pacific Northwest is the hotbed of MLS soccer,” said defender Zach Scott, who is in his 11th season with the Sounders. “That’s something that I think all the clubs here take pride in.”
The match starts at 12:30 pm Pacific on NBC and the Sounders will also have radio coverage on 97.3 KIRO FM.