In the lead-up to the opening of their new home, Avaya Stadium, the San Jose Earthquakes are visiting numerous Bay Area communities as part of the Great Soccer Ball Relay. A seven-week event that kicked off back on January 8 in Sacramento, the relay includes local celebrities at each stop dribbling a ball the length of a soccer field in a fashion similar to what torch-bearers do ahead of the Olympic Games. In addition to the relay, the Earthquakes are also holding soccer clinics for youth players at selected stops.
Saturday, the relay visits Palo Alto and Stanford University, which played host to the 1984 FIFA World Cup and other important matches throughout the years. In recent times, the campus has been the site of the Earthquakes Summer Soccer Celebration, hosting the California Clasico between the Quakes and the LA Galaxy in each of the past three seasons, including June 27 this season. Palo Alto has always been an integral part of the local soccer community.
The ninth stop on the Earthquakes march home includes the relay at noon and the youth soccer clinic at 1:00 p.m. (Register here), both events at the intramural fields at Stanford on El Camino Way. Relay participants, including Center Line Soccer, will link up on a course that will run in and around the many Stanford athletic facilities. Rain or shine, the Great Soccer Ball Relay will go on!
Each stop on the Relay has featured local sporting and civic leaders among the celebrity participants, as well as some loyal Earthquakes season ticket holders. For the first leg in Sacramento, local Quakes hero Adam Jahn joined the relay, as well as reigning USL PRO MVP Rodrigo Lopez from league champions Sacramento Republic FC. Earthquakes sideline reporter extraordinaire Kate Scott showed off her dribbling skills during the San Francisco leg of the relay. And when the relay hit Pleasanton, Quakes Hall-of-Famer Troy Dayak headlined an all-star crew.
The Palo Alto leg is likely to feature participants with strong ties to the soccer program at Stanford University. Men's head coach Jeremy Gunn, who also assists with the Earthquakes Academy, could highlight the group as it winds its way through campus. Maybe Earthquakes president Dave Kaval, who lives nearby and calls Stanford his alma mater, will make an appearance. Other celebrities remain a surprise -- just another reason to come out and watch the fun.
And when its all over? Saturday also marks the beginning of SF Beer Week in the Bay Area, and local watering hole The Rose and Crown, which has an eclectic selection of craft brews as part of the event, will surely be the post-relay destination of choice. Soccer and beer: the perfect combination and the perfect celebration as the Earthquakes continue their #MarchHome.