UPDATE: Just confirmed that the Sounders will continue to sell single-game tickets for the Red Bulls and Earthquakes games until those matches are played. Unsold seats will still be tarped.
In addition to opening the entire stadium for the Manchester United match, the Seattle Sounders just announced that they will also be opening up the upper bowl for the New York Red Bulls (June 23) and San Jose Earthquakes (Oct. 15) matches. The Hawks Nest will be opened for the United match, but not for the Quakes and Red Bulls matches. The expanded seating is in anticipation of that three-game package being in high demand.
Those three matches are being packaged together and being sold immediately for $99 through SoundersFC.com. The Manchester United-only tickets won't go on sale until June 1.
The Red Bulls match will also feature a pre-match "block party" which will be held in the North Lot. The Quakes match will feature the give-away of a Kasey Keller "collectible" to commemorate his final regular-season home game. The first 40,000 fans in attendance will receive the Keller collectible.
In previous statements to Sounder at Heart, Sounders officials had indicated that they did not want to expand seating for any regular-season matches for fear of setting a precedent for endlessly opening seats as demand warranted. The obvious question that will spring to mind is "Why will the Sounders expand seating for these games, but not do the same thing for Cascadia Cup matches?"
In talking to Gary Wright, the Sounders VP of Business Operations, I don't think I can give an entirely satisfactory answer. He acknowledged that this was, indeed, a change in tack and that previous statements he made would seem to be contradictory.
"Times change and this is something we’re going to see how it plays out," Wright said. "We wanted to see what the marketplace is really like. What’s our next level of expansion? If we do it with (Cascadia Cup) games, you don’t get a true picture.
"We want to get through those two games this year, and see how things play out in the stadium."
Wright did not say this exactly, but there seems to be a clear indication that the Sounders want as normal a situation as possible when the Timbers and Whitecaps come to town. It's probably overstating their feelings to say they are "worried", but they clearly want to know what to expect before doubling capacity for matches that are already going to be highly charged, emotionally.
In our conversation, Wright pointed out that if this was simply about money, the Sounders have a lot more to gain by expanding seating on a limited basis than they do by limiting it. I'll admit to being frustrated by this situation, but I'm also well aware that it's not my job to ensure these matches go as smoothly as possible. If this helps the longterm health of the rivalry, I'm at least willing to be reasonably patient.