The San Jose Earthquakes have signed a five-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers to play an annual regular-season Major League Soccer game at Levi's Stadium, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News.
Just days away from hosting the inaugural sporting event at the gleaming $1.2 billion Santa Clara facility, a match against the first place Seattle Sounders, the Quakes announced that Levi's Stadium would likely play home to a San Jose vs. Seattle game through 2018. The game at Levi's will take away one regular season game from the Earthquakes own new stadium, though that is all part of the plan of team president Dave Kaval to get more Bay Area fans to watch live soccer.
"It not only helps us promote our brand and make us feel major league, but it help us to sell our stadium," Kaval told the Mercury News.
The Earthquakes will continue to hold an annual match at Stanford Stadium, with the opponent expected to remain the LA Galaxy for the foreseeable future. Staging two of the team's annual marquee matches away from their own new stadium may seem a bit risky when it comes to home field advantage, and for season ticket holders it may seem an inconsideration, but Kaval remained positive that the knock-on effect of the two annual matches would outweigh the inconveniences.
"[The Earthquakes can] elevate the ability to sign bigger players," Kaval explained to the Mercury News. "We can elevate local TV packages. There are so many positives externalities from these type of successes."
The Quakes are expecting a sold-out lower bowl crowd of 45,000 for this Saturday for the Quakes vs. Sounders match. Add that to the 50,008 fans that packed Stanford Stadium on June 28 to watch San Jose lose 1-0 to the Galaxy, and the Earthquakes will attract over nine-times as many fans as can fit into sold-out Buck Shaw Stadium in only two big-stadium home games.
One fan base that will not be happy to hear the news is that of the Sounders. Upset over the prices being charged away supporters for this Saturday's game at Levi's Stadium, many of the Sounders most ardent fans have decided against traveling to the Bay Area to attend the match in person. The anger is likely to continue into subsequent seasons if the Quakes decide to make their annual Levi's game a repeat of this years.