Seattle Sounders FC could have some unusual travel in its future.
Annually among the Major League Soccer clubs with the most air miles, the Sounders will take a rare bus trip today – heading up to Vancouver, B.C., where they will meet the Whitecaps at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Later this month, the Sounders could take an even rarer trip to the Southeastern United States, starting U.S. Open Cup play in Atlanta.
That trip isn’t yet certain. It depends on the result of a second-round match Tuesday between the Atlanta Silverbacks and the Georgia Revolution.
The Silverbacks of the second-division North American Soccer League play two levels above the Revolution, a member of the National Premier Soccer League. (The NPSL is considered on par with the USL’s Premier Development League, which includes Northwest clubs such as the Pierce County-based Sounders FC U-23s.)
If the Revolution wins, it will meet Seattle in a May 29 third-round match at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. If the Silverbacks win, the Sounders go to Atlanta.
Seattle has been spared that kind of travel on the way to winning three straight U.S. Open Cups, in part because of the process that allowed clubs to bid for the right to host matches. Sounders FC has been aggressive enough in its bids to have played its past seven tournament games at home – including all four matches in the 2011 tournament.
However, U.S. Soccer has scrapped the bidding process for the first four rounds of the 2012 tournament.
“The Open Cup said it’s a coin flip that’s taking place behind some closed doors,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “We assume that’s the way it is. It’s all up to U.S. Soccer and where they want to take the tournament. I know in the bidding process that they’ve had in the past years has probably made the tournament a little more financially lucrative for them than it’s been in the past. And, obviously, they felt that they wanted to change that – which is fine. … If we go to Atlanta, we go to Atlanta. … We have to take it as it comes.”
Schmid’s preference for a more public process goes beyond concerns about fairness. He thinks the tournament also could benefit from added publicity.
“I would like to see the draw be made a big thing … like it is at the FA Cup in England,” he said. “That’s a very big show, and it’s something that people want to watch. Whether it’s something that would be for TV, I’m not sure. But it’s something definitely that you could put on the U.S. Soccer website, and people would be excited.”
The Sounders face three more MLS matches before opening defense of their Open Cup. First up is the start of this season’s Cascadia Cup competition and the Sounders’ first appearance at renovated BC Place.
With only 140 miles separating the cities, the Sounders will travel today by bus – which Schmid prefers.
“It’s a lot more comfortable on the bus,” he said. “You can just relax. Guys bring their pillows on board. You can bring something to eat and something to drink. They decide what movie to put on. Some guys listen to music. It’s a lot more relaxing than going to the airport and having to go through the stress of flying and getting on a plane.”
Schmid added defender Leo Gonzalez to the list of Sounders not expected to play Saturday, along with goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, defender Patrick Ianni and midfielder Brad Evans. … Two changes to the Sounders’ home schedule were announced. First kick of the Aug. 5 match against Los Angeles has been moved up an hour to 6 p.m. And the game against San Jose, previously scheduled for Sept. 23, now has been moved up a day to 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 22. … Sounders Women announcedthat their last seven regular-season games and four “Sounders Women Weekly” shows will air on 1150-AM.