USA vs. Panama
Tuesday, June 11; 6:30 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
2014 World Cup Qualifying match
Seattle has been waiting nearly 37 years to host a World Cup qualifying match.
On Tuesday, that wait will end ceremoniously when the US National Team meets Panama in their fifth match in the Hexagonal Round. And for as excited as the city of Seattle is to have such an illustrious event at CenturyLink Field, the players on the US squad are equally excited to see first-hand what they have heard so much about in recent years.
“I’m expecting a lot. I’ve heard a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard, who has family members that are Sounders FC season ticket holders. “It’s an awesome soccer city and the fact that we can have a qualifier here is exciting for all of us.”
The players have reason to be excited, too.
Many of them were in attendance when the Sounders FC topped the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3-2 in front of 53,679 fans on Saturday. Others have just heard about the atmosphere created by the league-record crowds and mastered by the Emerald City Supporters, the club’s main supporter group who act as maestros to the masses singing in the stands.
Those numbers have climbed each year, with average crowds starting at 30,943 in the club’s inaugural season in 2009 and reaching new heights at 43,144 last year. With just one of four matches with expanded seating capacity being played thus far, the Sounders are averaging 41,501 through the first six home matches on the 17-match home schedule.
“Anybody by now who pays attention to MLS sees what a special thing they have going here in Seattle. Whether you’ve been to a game here or you just watch the highlights, you see right away how passionate the people here are and how much their team means to them,” said US National Team midfielder Michael Bradley, who plays his club soccer with AS Roma in Italy. “We hope that when we step on the field they can support us in the same way.”
The team has already felt tremendous support in the city since they arrived on Saturday.
In addition to showing Terrence Boyd and Jermaine Jones around CenturyLink Field on Saturday, Sounders forward Eddie Johnson was joined by Howard and Clint Dempsey to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Mariners game on Sunday, drawing an ovation from the crowd of 43,389 at Safeco Field. The festivities continued into Monday, where a pep rally attended by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and several players was held at Cinerama and the American Outlaws supporter group held a kickoff event of their own.
The players can’t help but gush about their surroundings leading up to the match on Tuesday.
“I love it. It’s a great city,” Howard said. “I’ve been here before and I’m excited to play. The last time I was here there was no MLS soccer team and it’s been incredible what this city has done. I’m just excited to play here.”