By Ridge Mahoney and Paul Kennedy
Crowds totaling nearly 100,000 are quite possible at CenturyLink Field in Seattle for a Sounders-Whitecaps MLS match Saturday and the USA-Panama Hexagonal qualifier on Tuesday.
To a season-ticket base of about 31,000 the Sounders have sold approximately 20,000 more tickets for the Cascadia Cup game with Vancouver. Rather than limiting capacity to about 39,000 as is done for most MLS games, the Sounders are opening up CenturyLink to its full capacity of nearly 67,000.
The Sounders are tops in average MLS attendance at 39,066 per game, more than double the league average of 17,192. Their biggest crowd last season was a rivalry game against Portland that drew 66,452, and they drew 60,908 and 44,575 for league games against the Galaxy. They also opened up the stadium for an MLS match with Vancouver (55,718).
A ceiling of 42,000 will be in force for the qualifier, which takes place at the same time as a Mariners baseball game at Safeco Field, which is long goal kick away from CenturyLink. About 34,000 tickets had been sold for qualifier as of Thursday afternoon. Ticket prices for the qualifier, which is organized and promoted by U.S. Soccer, are double and triple the regular prices for a Sounders game in most sections of the stadium.
SEATTLE PROMOTIONS ON TAP. U.S. Soccer is planning a series of activities around Tuesday's USA-Panama game in Seattle, including a poster unveiling, pep rally and fan fest. Fans from 48 states are expected to join Seattle supporters for the game at CenturyLink Field.
NikeTown in downtown Seattle will serve as the U.S. Soccer fan headquarters for the promotions that begin Friday when U.S. Soccer will release a limited-edition poster USA-Panama poster created by graphic artist Art Chantry, best known for the work he did for bands in the Pacific Northwest, including Nirvana.
U.S. Soccer and Fado Irish Pub will be hosting a viewing party, starting at 6 p.m. PT., for Friday's Jamaica-USA qualifier.
A pep rally, like the one done in Denver in March before the qualifier against Costa Rica, will be held Monday night at Paul G Allen's Cinerama. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. and admittance is free. A fan fest will be held within the North Lot before and during the game at CenturyLink Field.
All fans in attendance will receive a special edition game-specific scarf as part of the series of scarves for each World Cup qualifying home match.
U.S. FRIENDLY VIEWERS. Last week's two U.S. friendlies drew an average of 743,000 and 736,000 viewers for the ESPN2 game against Germany and ESPN game against Belgium, respectively.
To put them in perspective, Tuesday's Jamaica-Mexico game on Spanish-language Telemundo averaged 2,867,000 -- almost double the two friendlies combined.
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