When the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos line up for Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, kick-off at 3:30 p.m. local time, the attention of the world will be on Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. The nearly three-year-old facility, home to the San Francisco 49ers, has quickly become the premier venue in the Bay Area for large events.
So big is the Super Bowl that tickets to the game are said to have the highest demand in the half-century history of the NFL's championship. And for the 68,500 fans that are lucky to have one, attending the game will long serve as a memorable moment in their lives. For one Sunday, Levi's Stadium will be the center of the sporting universe.
Reported to cost nearly $2 billion, the facility is not only home to the 49ers, but also select games from the collegiate ranks, including the annual Pac-12 Championship. In the last year, Levi's Stadium has hosted WrestleMania 31, the NHL's San Jose Sharks, and legendary band The Grateful Dead during its tenure. Even the beautiful game, soccer, has found a home at the venue.
Back in 2013, before the stadium was completed, the first sporting event was announced for Levi's Stadium, and it was a soccer match, not an NFL game, that would get the honor of "Grand Opening." Local Major League Soccer club the San Jose Earthquakes was scheduled to host the Seattle Sounders on August 2, 2014, weeks before the 49ers kicked off their preseason. It was one of many soccer matches that the stadium would, and will, host.
When initial plans were drawn up for the Bay Area's newest stadium over a decade ago, designers made sure that the facility could accommodate a FIFA-regulation sized pitch. Back in 2010, when U.S. Soccer launched its bid to host the 2022 World Cup -- a vote it controversially lost to Qatar -- the planned stadium was among those put forth as a site for the tournament. And while dreams of a World Cup in the USA have been put on hold for now, Levi's Stadium has still shown off its soccer-hosting chops.
Four big soccer matches have been played at Levi's since August 2014, and four more huge games are planned for this summer as part of the 2016 Copa América Centenario -- a 16-team tournament that will feature the biggest soccer nations from North and South America. In fact, Levi's Stadium has been selected to host the tournament's opening match on June 3, which will feature the United States men's national team in action.
So, when the Super Bowl 50 festivities are over, the confetti is cleaned off the field, and the world gets back to business, Levi's Stadium will rest up for the next big international event on its calendar. From football to fútbol, the Bay Area's biggest sporting venue will be ready to put on another memorable show this summer.
History of Soccer Matches at Levi's Stadium
August 2, 2014: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders -- The official soft-opening of Levi's Stadium attracted more than 45,765 fans to Santa Clara for the MLS clash between the Quakes and the Sounders. Yannick Djalo, the Portuguese midfielder who only spent one season in San Jose, supplied the only goal of the match, as the last-place Earthquakes beat their Pacific Northwest rivals 1-0. The match was the first one played in a five-year deal agreed to by the Quakes and the 49ers to bring an annual MLS game to Levi's.
September 6, 2014: Mexico vs. Chile, International Friendly -- The traveling road-show that is El Tri made a stop in the Bay Area in the summer of 2014, as Mexico played Chile to a scoreless draw in an international friendly at Levi's Stadium. Both teams were playing their first matches since the conclusion of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and fans came out in droves to support them. The colorful displays of the Mexico supporters, and the music they brought with them, proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Levi's was the perfect host for some of the biggest teams in world soccer.
May 24, 2015: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Orlando City SC -- The attraction of Brazilian superstar Kaka made this one of the hottest tickets in soccer in the Spring of 2015, and Orlando's talisman delivered to put the Lions up 1-0 early in the second half. However, Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski leveled the score soon after -- slamming home his 100th career MLS goal in the process -- as the two World Cup veterans delivered in an entertaining 1-1 draw.
July 25, 2015: Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona, International Champions Cup -- Two of the club soccer's giants headlined a match that had the Bay Area buzzing for months after it was announced on the Levi's Stadium calendar earlier that year. Over 68,416 supporters filled the stands to marvel at such international stars as Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez, and Andres Iniesta, in what was the highest attending soccer match in the area since the 1999 Women's World Cup. United took an early lead behind Rooney and withstood a furious Barca comeback attempt to win the match 3-1.