by: Frank Field Updated:
SEATTLE - The U.S. men's national soccer team will play a World Cup qualifying match in Seattle Tuesday night. It'll be the first World Cup qualifier held in Seattle since 1976. So far, team officials say they've sold just under 40,000 tickets, which they point to as proof of the sport's growing popularity in the U.S.
Melissa Darnall is a Seattle Sounders fan we caught up with as she shopped for national team shirts and scarves. She is looking forward to her first World Cup qualifier. "It's gonna be pretty crazy in there. We can get loud in that stadium anyway. But it's not sold out, so I'm not sure people quite understand,"
But the numbers show soccer is catching on. The last time there was a cup qualifier in Seattle, about 17,000 people watched. In order to get Century Link as the venue, US Soccer agreed to cap Tuesday's match at 44,000 tickets because the Mariners are playing the same night. The CEO of US Soccer says he's happy with the deal, even if he thinks they could've sold a few more seats. "Do we think we could've done more? Yeah, that's a possibility. But you know, we're happy where we're at. We're very pleased," he said after a team press conference featuring coach Jurgen Klinnsman and team captain Clint Dempsey. "The fans have reacted in such a positive manner."
The last qualifier in Seattle was 1976, the year the Seahawks joined the National Football League. The Seahawks sell out Century Link, which holds 67,000 fans.
The national team comes into Tuesday's match against Panama fresh off a win over Jamaica. Captain Clint Dempsey says he expects that Seattle fans will create a European-like fervor in the stands. "It's great to see the game is building and there's markets like this where people have so much passion for the game," he said.
The CEO of US Soccer says the organization doesn't keep stats on the economic impact of qualifier matches. But he says ticket sales will probably indicate people from 48 states will travel to the match. He says that they travel days in advance of the game, so it's not an insignificant impact on the local economy.