Sounders FC

Boca Juniors, Celtic line up for Sounders friendlies

Sounders FC liked the idea of bringing a South American club to Qwest Field, and on Wednesday the club announced that it had landed one of the best.

Twenty-three-time Argentine champion, six-time South American champion and three-time world club champion Boca Juniors will visit for a friendly on May 26. The Sounders also announced Celtic of the Scottish Premier League will visit on July 18.

“They’ll be great games: two fantastic teams, great histories, great fan support; huge, important franchises within both countries,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “Obviously, Boca brings something that we haven’t seen here yet: a South American team. Two very storied franchises that will bring a lot of fun to Qwest Field. (It) will be a great challenge for us to test ourselves against some of the best teams internationally.”

Both games are part of the Sounders’ season-ticket package. Hanauer is still working on a third game likely to be played in September or October.

Individual tickets will go on sale for Boca on Monday, and for Celtic on June 1. Increased upper-deck seating will be used for both matches. Kickoff times are expected to be announced soon.

Hanauer said arranging international matches was especially difficult this season because of the World Cup.

“In some of the conversations with some of the bigger teams around the world, it was clear that half the team might be missing for the World Cup,” Hanauer said. “That didn’t sit very well with us relative to delivering to our fans. So we wanted to try to find some teams that were likely to not be missing significant portions of their rosters. Obviously, Celtic and Boca are maybe not the recognizable brands of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United. But they are still huge brands worldwide.”

This will be Celtic’s fourth trip to Seattle, having played the NASL Sounders in 1981, Manchester United in 2003 and Chelsea in 2004. Though behind Rangers in the current Scottish League standings, Celtic has a record 34 Scottish cups and 42 league championships.

Boca, which takes its name from the club’s Buenos Aires neighborhood, may be best known for producing soccer immortal Diego Maradona. According to the Sounders, Boca will be the first major Argentine club to play in Seattle and the first major South American club since 1983.

“We liked the idea of going to a South American country to bring a team,” Hanauer said. “The two biggest brands in Argentina are Boca and River Plate. ... We think Boca will be an attractive game for our fans. They play a good style of football, and we’re excited to be able to play against them.”

Along with other considerations, Hanauer had to find acceptable dates within the Sounders’ MLS season. The Boca game comes between a May 22 home game against San Jose and a May 29 visit to Colorado. Celtic arrives on an open weekend between a July 15 date at D.C. United and a July 25 visit from Colorado.

“We’re going to play our guys much like last year when we played Chelsea and Barcelona, and we gave the whole squad an opportunity to play,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “... It’s an event. It’s something for our fans to enjoy. It’s the whole idea of bringing something that is unique and special to our fans.”

Both games will be played on Qwest’s usual FieldTurf pitch.

The Sounders are expected to wear their new yellow alternative kits.

Added time

Sounders training Wednesday included an 11-on-11 scrimmage. Raphael Cox of Tacoma, who played at Stadium High School, Highline Community College and the University of Washington, helped even out the sides. ... Second-year midfielder Michael Fucito watched from the side while wearing a protective boot that is intended to prevent fluid from building around his bruised knee.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer

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