For soccer fans that have been waiting for Chelsea Football Club to arrive in Seattle, the wait is almost over. July 18 is less than a week away, and Seattle Sounders FC will be playing one of the most talented and wealthiest teams in soccer history in a friendly match at Qwest Field.
Qwest Field is expected to reach a capacity of 67,000, and there are reportedly a few hundred more tickets available. That is more than twice the attendance that an average Sounders MLS game pulls in, though those games have a capped attendance, with only the lower bowl of the stadium currently available during the season.
Chelsea FC have been extremely successful in recent years. Despite missing out on the UEFA Champions League final in 2009, they have pulled in five major English titles in the last five seasons, including an FA title. After Russian Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, they have enjoyed consistent Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League success.
“This will be unlike any international game ever played in the Pacific Northwest,” said Sounders FC majority owner Joe Roth. “Chelsea is one of the top clubs in the world, and they are playing the home team, our Sounders FC, backed by our loyal supporters. The atmosphere that afternoon will be incredible.”
Chelsea’s new manager Carlo Ancellotti will be bringing an array of renowned, world-class soccer players with the intention of assessing his squad. This is music to the ears of Sounders fans who are hoping to see their team play one of the best in the world.
English national team players like John Terry and Frank Lampard will be showcased, along with new signing Yuri Zhirkov.
However, they will face a hot expansion team in the Sounders, who have been riding high on the defensive play of goalie Kasey Keller and the scoring prowess of Nate Jaqua and Freddie Montero.
“We are happy that a sporting city like Seattle now has its own new soccer franchise, as it is important for the development of the game in the United States,” said Peter Kenyon, the Chief Executive of Chelsea FC. “We will be bringing a full strength squad, so it should be a great game.”
This isn’t the first time Chelsea have visited Seattle. They have made four visits to the Pacific Northwest over the years, and played Scottish team Celtic in a preseason game back in 2004. Way back in 1977, Chelsea played the original NASL Sounders and lost in a 2-0 game.
The day of the game will also be the very first day that the new Light Rail system will be running through Seattle, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The stadium will be full of more than just Sounders fans, and the convenience of riding above the road straight from the airport to the stadium will be great for any Chelsea supporters flying in from abroad.
The mass transit solution will also relieve the high stress on parking, which should be expected to be even worse than Seahawks’ games. Fans who decide to drive in should take into account that only two lanes will be open on the way into Seattle, making parking in SoDo for the game even less attractive.
Can’t make it to the game? The match will air in its entirety on ESPN2.
Sounders fans are being spoiled this year when it comes to friendly matches. After playing Chelsea, a historic team in its own right, the club will again take on another famous European league team at home when Barcelona comes to Seattle in early August. Barcelona are fresh off a Champions League win against Manchester United, and will also be bringing their all-star squad.