Up north, soccer proving popular
Not only did Seattle Sounders FC fail to climb to the top of the Major League Soccer standings over the weekend, but the club also was bumped from its customary spot at the top of the MLS attendance charts.
The expansion Montreal Impact drew a crowd of 60,860 to Olympic Stadium for the Los Angeles Galaxy’s visit Saturday, increasing its four game home attendance average to 40,529. That passed Seattle, which is averaging 38,724 through seven home dates.
“It’s exciting for the league,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “I don’t think they’ll stay there very long – which is unfortunate. Again, big crowds, more excitement, more engagement within the league is just a good thing. I’m very happy with our 39,000 per game. So if someone gets to 42 (thousand), or 44 or 46, we’ll try to compete; and our fans I’m sure will take that as a challenge. But ultimately, it’s a good thing.”
Hanauer is almost certainly correct that Montreal won’t remain atop the MLS attendance list.
The Impact is making only temporary use of Olympic Stadium, which officially seats 58,000 for soccer. Next month, games will shift to renovated Stade Saputo, a soccer-specific stadium that will have a capacity of 20,341.
Montreal’s first schedule match in its new home will come June 16 – against the Sounders.
As for Seattle, the club that has led MLS in attendance since its 2009 expansion season is on pace for its best attendance yet. The crowd of 39,312 that turned out for the Sounders’ 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday was the largest home crowd of the season. And far larger crowds are expected when the upper deck is opened for coming home games against rivals Vancouver, Portland and Los Angeles.
The first of those 2012 Cascadia Cup matches will be played Saturday, with the Sounders traveling to Vancouver for their first game at renovated B.C. Place Stadium.
There, the Whitecaps are averaging 18,615 per home game, which ranks in the middle of the league, but behind Montreal and Toronto (19,022).
“Immigration in Canada for a lot of years was a lot easier than immigrating to the United States,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “So … the people that live there have closer roots to Europe. (Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are) very cosmopolitan cities with a lot of people from diverse backgrounds, and as a result of that the interest in soccer is the common ground. It’s the common thread. If you go anywhere in the world and you start juggling a ball, somebody will talk to you.”
Hanauer saw that potential when Seattle, Vancouver and Montreal all played in the United Soccer Leagues.
“I’ve always believed that Canada was a different animal when it came to soccer support,” he said. “They don’t have quite the competition that we have in this country. … NHL is the one massive competitor for that relevance in that market. They certainly have (the Canadian Football League), but not as big as the NFL. So I think from a competition standpoint … and from the history they have shown with the (USL) support in Montreal and Vancouver, I was pretty convinced it would be successful. You never know completely how successful. Again, it’s fantastic for the league overall.”
Schmid said midfielder Brad Evans (calf), defender Patrick Ianni (back) and goalkeeper Michael Gspurning (hip) are not expected to be ready to play this weekend. … New England midfielder Lee Nguyen was named MLS player of the week Monday after contributing two goals and an assist in the Revolution’s 4-1 win over Vancouver on Sunday. … The Sounders practiced Monday at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. Another practice is scheduled there today. The team will take Wednesday off, practice Thursday and travel to Canada on Friday. … Sounders FC U-23 picked up four points in two games in Canada over its opening weekend. The Pierce County-based PDL team won at Vancouver, 2-1, on Friday and then played to a 1-1 draw at Victoria on Saturday. The club continues on the road this weekend with a 7:30 p.m. Saturday match at Kitsap.
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