Like Seattle Sounders FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps play in a stadium that allows the option of greatly increased seating capacity for certain games.
But unlike the Sounders, the Whitecaps have decided against doing that.
Those contrasting philosophies help explain why more fans attended the Sounders-Whitecaps match in Seattle than will attend the two games in Vancouver combined.
“I think you have to create the urgency (for tickets),” Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said. “We played the Galaxy here this year, and we were sold out two or three days before the match.
“There was a huge debate that was taking place about why are we not opening up more seats. We probably left money on the table, but our feeling was that if people really believe that every time we get a big match that we’re just going to open up more seats, then the likelihood of selling those season tickets will probably stay remote.”
Seattle’s CenturyLink Field has a capacity that exceeds 68,000, but the Sounders typically tarp off most of the upper deck to create a soccer capacity of around 39,000.
However, for four of their most popular games this season, the Sounders opened the entire upper deck, which allowed crowds of 53,309 for Chelsea, 55,718 for the Whitecaps, 60,908 for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Ticket sales for the Portland Timbers’ visit next week have already topped 62,000.
Vancouver’s BC Place has a capacity of around 55,000, but the Whitecaps use only 21,000 seats in the lower bowl.
Those were all sold by May 19, when the Sounders and Whitecaps played to a 2-2 draw. And Lenarduzzi said there already is “a virtual sellout” for the Sounders’ return visit Saturday.
Seattle leads Major League Soccer with an average home attendance of 42,134. Vancouver is sixth at 19,379.
The Whitecaps’ decision not to increase capacity also serves to preserve home-field advantage.
“I was talking to (Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer) about the (Sounders’ 2011 visit to Vancouver),” Lenarduzzi said. “The atmosphere there: That was crazy. I felt like there were more Sounders fans in the building than Whitecaps fans. And I know that there was an allocation (of tickets for Sounders supporters), but it seemed like they were all over the place. So anytime you get the derby matches … they’re special games.”
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