Sounders FC

Sounders to face expansion Philly in 2010 MLS opener

MLS will open its 2010 season with a nationally televised game from Qwest Field, where Seattle Sounders FC will meet the Philadelphia Union in its inaugural game.

The match will kick off Major League Soccer’s 15th season at 6:30 p.m. March 25 and will be shown on ESPN2.

It will be the second consecutive season that MLS’ First Kick game will be played in Seattle. The Sounders made their franchise debut in the 2009 First Kick against the New York Red Bulls.

“Being selected to participate in the first match of the season is a testament to the passion and energy of our fans,” majority owner Joe Roth said in a press release.

The other 14 teams will complete the first round of league play on the weekend of March 27-28. Other opening highlights include the New York Red Bulls’ first game at their new soccer-specific stadium, and a pair of rivalry games: Toronto at Columbus, and Houston at Dallas.

The league’s Thursday announcement of home openers also included a second Sounders’ game: April 10 at Real Salt Lake.

The Sounders’ other 28 league games will be announced along with the entire MLS schedule early next year.

Also yet to be determined are the dates and opponent in the Sounders’ 2010 CONCACAF Champions League play-in games, which were earned with the U.S. Open Cup Championship the club clinched on Sept. 2.

“There will be 24 teams in the Champions League, eight of which are automatically qualified for group stage,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “So, the winner of MLS Cup qualifies for group stage automatically, and the Supporters Shield (winner). The other two that come from MLS go into the play-in stage, where it’s eight teams against eight teams – home and away. And then the eight winners of those series go into the group stage.”

If the Sounders advance to Champions League group play, that would guarantee six more CONCACAF games: three home and away.

NFL connections

While preparing for Saturday’s game at New England, the Sounders are staying at a Foxborough, Mass., development near Gillette Stadium called Patriot Place.

That community, stadium and the name of the complex all are reminders that the Revs – like the Sounders – are closely connected to an NFL franchise.

The Revolution shares ownership, some staff and its home pitch with the New England Patriots, in a relationship much like the one the Sounders share with the Seahawks.

“They’re completely different sports, completely different coaches and all of that stuff,” said Brian Bilello, chief operating officer of the Revolution. “So in that regard, there’s not a lot of overlap. But in the front office staff we do a fair amount. We have an integrated office staff in a lot of areas, particularly sponsorship, sales and marketing areas. I think there’s a lot there in terms of knowing how to sell and market a sports franchise that we can leverage, and frankly a lot of people. When there’s up time and down time, you have more bodies that you can put on the Revolution than maybe you would normally.”

When New York moves into Red Bull Arena next season, the Sounders and Revs will be the only MLS teams playing in NFL stadiums.

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

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