After a one-year hiatus, international friendlies are returning to CenturyLink Field this year when Sounders FC hosts Tottenham Hotspur on July 19.
The Barclays Premier League side is a welcome addition to the schedule for Seattle players that have welcomed FC Barcelona, Chelsea, Celtic, Chivas de Guadalajara, Boca Juniors and Manchester United in previous friendlies.
“That’s going to be great. It’s a team on the up-and-up as far as competition goes worldwide. They’ve climbed to a tremendous position and they’ve done very well the last couple of years,” said Seattle midfielder and U.S. National Team defender Brad Evans.
Tottenham Hotspur finished fifth in the Premier League in 2012-13 and featured current Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey. The U.S. captain is hardly the only Seattle connection to White Hart Lane, though. Kasey Keller played there from 2001-05 before starring for Sounders FC from 2009-11 and now in the broadcast booth. Additionally, the North American Soccer League’s Sounders featured former Spurs defender Mike England and future manager Harry Redknapp.
For all the connections, this will be Tottenham Hotspur's first visit to Seattle, yet the club has a strong following in the area and could potentially draw a different element to the stands for the match.
“It will bring a bit of a different culture and following to CenturyLink Field,” Evans said. “You’re going to see the true die-hard Tottenham Hotspur fans for that game, which will be very cool. I’m excited to play them, for sure.”
The friendly matches are a great opportunity for players and fans alike. In seven previous friendlies, crowds have exceeded 65,000 three times with 379,298 fans crossing the turnstiles for the seven matches.
Likewise, the players get a chance to enjoy the experience of facing top-flight opponents in front of those crowds in nationally televised matches.
Zach Scott is one of two Sounders to have played in all seven friendlies – the other being Fredy Montero – and used the experience to help keep his game sharp at a time when he wasn’t playing as much.
“I found most of my playing time in the earlier years in the league in friendlies, Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League. I think they’re tremendous opportunities for young guys to get their feet wet in environments that are difficult,” Scott said. “These are world class teams and Tottenham Hotspur is one of them. I’m excited we’re doing it again.”
While great exhibitions for the fans to see Sounders FC against some of the top teams in the world and for longtime fans of the overseas opponents to see their club live and in person, it also can mean playing time for young players to measure themselves against that level of competition. Lamar Neagle is among those who have garnered playing time in the friendlies and gone on to greater success on the MLS level, while they have also gone to raise the profile of players like Montero and Osvaldo Alonso along the way.
This year will be the first opportunity for some of the younger players to enjoy that experience.
“Any chance you get to play against a team the caliber of Tottenham Hotspur is an exciting thing,” said forward Eriq Zavaleta, who was a first-round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. “To measure yourself against players in the English Premier League and the teams at that level is always exciting.”
The match is part of the Sounders FC full 18-match season ticket membership. Fans can also guarantee seats for the Tottenham Hotspur match by purchasing a half-season ticket membership prior to the public on-sale of individual tickets on March 10.