Seattle Sounders FC has become such an attendance phenomenon that comparing it with other Major League Soccer teams hardly even seems the appropriate scale anymore.
The Sounders’ average of 42,134 per MLS home game is more than double the league average (18,521) and nearly 20,000 per game more than attendance runner-up Montreal, which averages 22,945.
With such domination within the league, observers have increasingly looked outside MLS for comparisons:
• Seattle would be sixth in English Premier League attendance, behind Manchester United (75,387), Arsenal (60,000), Newcastle (49,935), Manchester City (47,044) and Liverpool (44,253).
• The club would rank fourth in Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga.
On Sunday, all those Sounders attendance numbers will be adjusted upward again.
The club has sold more than 66,000 tickets for its home match against the arch-rival Portland Timbers, assuring what will be the largest crowd in franchise history for a league game.
“This is something special,” veteran defender Jeff Parke said. “It’s a huge game – a lot on the line for both teams. It’s our biggest rival, and it’s one of the biggest games of the year that you circle.”
With CenturyLink Field’s soccer capacity – including standing room – topping out at more than 67,000, this puts the Sounders within striking distance of the largest soccer crowd in Northwest history: the 67,052 who watched the Sounders play Manchester United in a 2011 friendly.
They already are assured of breaking the club record for an MLS match: the 64,140 who turned out last season for goalkeeper Kasey Keller’s farewell match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
A crowd of about 67,000 would be the rank seventh in MLS history.
The largest attendance for an MLS match was 92,650 for the Chivas USA vs. New England match at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2006. But that game was front end of a doubleheader that included Barcelona vs. CD Guadalajara.
The largest attendance for a stand-alone MLS game was the 69,255 who turned out to watch the Los Angeles Galaxy and the New York Metro Stars (now the Red Bulls) at the Rose Bowl in 1996.
This will be the fourth time this season that the Sounders will open the entire upper deck of CenturyLink. In the other cases, they drew 60,908 for the Los Angeles Galaxy, 55,718 for the Vancouver Whitecaps and 53,309 for a friendly against Chelsea.
Seattle won the two MLS matches, and hopes to use the huge crowd as an advantage Sunday for what projects as an important game for Western Conference playoff seeding and a potentially decisive one for the Cascadia Cup competition.
“I’m sure the guys have a little extra motivation,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “When the crowd is that size, it does become intimidating for the opponent. I remember when (I coached) the Galaxy and we won the MLS Cup there were 64,000 in Gillette Stadium cheering on New England. As experienced a team as we were at that time, it was a little bit daunting to go out there and face that and know that they were all for the opponent. It’s going to be a great atmosphere for us, and I think that helps us.”
History says that it will. The Sounders are 4-0-1 when playing league matches before home crowds of more than 40,000, and have outscored those opponents 13-4.
Defender Adam Johansson (Sweden) and Mario Martinez (Honduras) have been called by their national teams. Both are expected to miss the Sounders’ Oct. 17 home match with Real Salt Lake. … The Sounders are off today. They will return to training Friday.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 email@example.com @donruiztntblog.thenewstribune.com/soccer