The primary reason Avaya Stadium should have been the first choice as a venue for the San Jose Earthquakes signature game against EPL giants Manchester United is quite simply that Avaya is the Quakes home.
This will be a great opportunity to show off MLS’s latest, custom-built soccer stadium to a much wider audience. Wherever your fan loyalties lie, there’s no escaping the fact that Avaya stadium stands, literally, as a monument to the progress being made in professional soccer in the United States.
Also, consider the home-field psychological advantage to the Quakes. Let’s face, it in the real world, San Jose are going to need all the help they can get against this English side.
The press release reasons for the switch of venue can easily lead one into murky waters. The statement said that Avaya stadium was more convenient to Manchester United’s travel and logistic arrangements.
The first thing that comes to mind is, true, the stadium is right next to the airport which is very convenient if you had to fly somewhere right after the game. But United’s next game after their meeting with the Earthquakes is against Barcelona at the Levi’s Stadium, which last time I looked was next to a huge amusement park not an airport.
Surely the logistics of getting a visiting team in and out of the Levi’s Stadium can be no greater or less than the logistics of getting in and out of Cal Stadium or, as is now the case, Avaya.
Could it be that the switch of venue was due to inexplicably low ticket sales? This is kind of hard to believe given the sheer number of Manchester United fans there are in any given square-mile anywhere on the planet, especially when added to the local support of this area’s only MLS team.
Ticket sales aside, there’s the whole question of stadiums in the professional soccer in 2015. Cal is, when all is said and done, an American football stadium. Teams of world standing like Manchester United should not be expected to play in a football stadium, any more than they should be expected to play in a baseball stadium or in an ice hockey arena.
The ghosts of MLS teams having to play fields with 10 yard lines marked on Astroturf need finally laying to rest. Oh, but you might say this is a money game and seat ticket sales are what count; to which I would reply, okay so let’s not roll out over $50,000 worth of real turf onto a football stadium and say “Hey look folks, it’s a soccer stadium.” It’s false economy and it’s also mutton dressed as lamb.
Last year’s preseason game between Inter Milan and Real Madrid at the Cal Stadium, while spectacular, had none of the up-close intimacy the game at Avaya will have. Avaya has the steepest ranked seating in MLS and is very much a stadium specifically designed with fan proximity in mind.
So let’s consider the experience and what it will mean to the fans and players of the San Jose Earthquakes. They will be facing the current lineup of the team that all those years ago briefly gave them the skills of George Best, and what is still arguably the best goal ever scored in professional soccer in the United States.