Last week, the Seattle Sounders got some unexpected good news when Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Washington state was moving to Phase 3 of the Covid-19 recovery process. That means the Sounders are authorized to have as many as 9,000 fans in attendance when the 2021 MLS season gets underway on April 16 against visiting Minnesota United.
For the players, it will have been well over a year since the they last played in front of their home fans. The last home game with fans in the stadium before MLS suspended the season was in a 1-1 draw against the Columbus Crew on March 8.
“It’s a great opener and to have them back and having them push us on for the huge opener and help us out, and [we’re] really looking forward to it,” said left back Brad Smith.
While the Sounders front office has quite a bit of logistical work to do before opening day, coach Brian Schmetzer said the team is looking forward to hearing the supporters cheer on his squad, limited though it will be.
“I just don’t know how the office is going to decide who gets to come,” Schmetzer said. “I know there’s about 38,000 people that want to show up, and we’re limited capacity.”
The Sounders have yet to announce the specific process by which fans will get to attend games, though Season Ticket members will get first crack at tickets. The Sounders continue to work with Public Health – Seattle & King County, First & Goal Inc. and Major League Soccer to finalize the organization’s health and safety protocols. According to a release from the Sounders, once the club’s updated venue protocols have been approved by public health authorities and MLS, further details will be made available to the public.
Additionally the Sounders announced that, Lumen Field has implemented an array of enhanced measures designed to ensure the game day experience is as safe as possible, “including a touchless venue experience, new food and beverage protocols, in addition to enhanced sanitation procedures.” The release also states that face masks are required for all events at Lumen Field for fans age two and older, while not eating or drinking.
“It’s great news, nationally there’s some big news [with] President [Biden] talking about getting everybody vaccinated,” Schmetzer said. “Let’s keep this going. Let’s be safe, but let’s keep this going.”
Coach Schmetzer also welcomed news of the return of his entire coaching staff, whom the Sounders announced extensions for last week. “That’s the best assistant coach staff in MLS, top to bottom,” Schmetzer said.
In what has become an annual rite of passage, Sounders fans have been clamoring for information on when the latest jersey will be released. The new kit will replace the “Nightfall” jersey, primarily used for away matches. While no credible photos of the jersey have leaked, the new kit is expected to go on sale the morning of March 25, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.