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National team returns to Seattle after long break

It's been nearly 40 years since the U.S. National Team played a World Cup qualifier in Seattle.

It has been nearly 37 years since the US Men’s National Team came to Seattle to play a World Cup qualifying match.

On Thursday, US coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced that they would make their long-awaited return, hosting Panama on June 11 at CenturyLink Field as they look to advance to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

“It was a no-brainer,” Klinsmann said. “We knew we had to go to Seattle and the sooner the better.”

The last time the US played a qualifier in Seattle was October 20, 1976 when they met Canada at the Kingdome while trying to qualify for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. With 17,675 at the Kingdome, Miro Rys and Juli Veee both score second-half goals as the US topped Canada 2-0 for their only win in five qualifying matches that year.

Since then, the Sounders in the NASL had crowds that ranked high in the league and the Sounders FC in Major League Soccer have smashed attendance records each year, reaching the pinnacle with an average attendance of 43,144 in 2012.

Record-setting crowds for the Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field and consistent support for the US National Team from fans in the Northwest has held the attention of US Soccer for many years and now has prompted them to host a match on a grand scale.

“Going to Seattle for a World Cup qualifier was really high on our list because of the fantastic atmosphere in Seattle, proven over the last couple of years with the supporters and how they support their Sounders organization and how they support US Soccer,” Klinsmann said. “It will give us, hopefully, a real advantage in our game.”

The match in Seattle will be the fifth of 10 matches in the fourth round of World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region and comes just four days after a match in Jamaica. In the Hexagonal Round, the US will need to finish in the top three of the six-team group in order to ensure advancement to the World Cup.

One obstacle keeping the US qualifying matches out of Seattle in previous years, Klinsmann said, was the difficulty in traveling to Seattle for players coming from Europe. A June match, however, won’t be as much of a problem because US National Team players who play for clubs in Europe will be in their off-season and the match comes on the heels of a June 7 match in Jamaica.

“It is the perfect timing to go to Seattle. We are thrilled. We are really thrilled,” Klinsmann said. “We can’t wait to go there and we hope the fans in the Northwest will be ready for us.”