Shortly after the Seattle Reign clinched home-field advantage throughout the NWSL playoffs, it didn't take long to realize that there was a rather significant scheduling issue. The final was slated for either Aug. 31 or Sept. 1, days that Bumbershoot currently has Memorial Stadium booked. Bumbershoot had used Key Arena in the previous three seasons, but the WNBA effectively forced the venue change as it would have potentially conflicted with the playoffs.
That left the Reign in search of a venue. The team apparently considered Husky Soccer Stadium (limited seating capacity and apparently lacking some other infrastructure; Husky Stadium (it apparently doesn't accommodate a regulation soccer pitch); Safeco Field has a Seattle Mariners game scheduled for 1 p.m.; and CenturyLink Field will be getting prepared for the Seahawks opener on Sept. 4.
Instead, the Reign will return to Starfire, where they played their inaugural season in 2013. The Reign will play their semifinal match on Aug. 23 at Memorial.
"While we have truly loved playing at Memorial Stadium, should we earn the right to play in the championship match we believe Starfire will be a great venue for the game," Reign head coach Laura Harvey said in a team release. "We had a great experience at Starfire last season and think the intimate setting can deliver a great experience for players and for fans."
While playing a match at Starfire is hardly a disaster -- Seattle soccer fans should be accustomed to attending games there -- it's hard not to see this as a disappointment. The Reign's decision to move to Memorial this season is widely seen a significant part of their dramatically improved attendance. Not only is Memorial located in the middle of Seattle while Starfire is in Tukwila, but the capacity will only be about one-third of what it would have been if the Reign had been able to play in their normal home.
There had also been some hopes that the Reign could somehow figure out a way to have the game at CenturyLink, either as part of a double-header with the Sounders on Aug. 30 or the following day on their own. Although the idea of a double-header proved extremely popular on a Sounder at Heart Facebook post, it may not have been a realistic option for various reasons.
That said, Starfire is not without its charms. Aside from it serving as the Reign's former home, the Sounders have turned it into one of the strongest home-field advantages in all of North American soccer. The Sounders have never lost a competitive match there during their MLS era and have gone 19-0-1 in U.S. Open Cup play dating back to 2005.