Major League Soccer decided prior to the 2012 season that it would reward regular season performance and, for the first time ever, allow the higher seed to host MLS Cup, rather than hold the event at a neutral venue.
For the San Jose Earthquakes, the 2012 Supporters' Shield winners, their potential MLS Cup venue has become a major discussion point as their fantastic season, and now their first-leg advantage over the Galaxy in the conference semis, have positioned them as prohibitive favorites to host the league's showpiece event.
The issue? At 50 years old and with a capacity of 10,525, the team's usual home of Buck Shaw Stadium might not be a facility worthy of hosting MLS Cup.
Speaking to reporters before Saturday's D.C. United/New York Red Bulls clash, league commissioner Don Garber confirmed those suspicions.
“We have made the decision that we would like to move the game out of the stadium that they play in in Santa Clara today,” Garber said. “We have not yet resolved where that game is going to be played.
“We think if San Jose was able to make it into the final, more than 10,000 people would want to come to that game,” Garber added. “So we’d want to find another site. We just don’t know where that is yet.”
Among the potential replacements in the Bay Area, Stanford Stadium seems like an ideal candidate. The Quakes have played there this season, it holds 50,000 spectators and has a natural grass field. There is, however, a potential problem: Stanford’s football team might end up hosting the Pac-12 championship game Nov. 30, one day before MLS Cup.
“I don’t want to wish bad things on Stanford. I’m sure lots of Stanford fans want to see them hosting the Pac-12 Championship,” Garber said. “We’re still tracking to see what happens there.”
Stanford’s football team currently sits in third place in the Pac-12 North division, with a 5-1 conference record, one game behind first-place Oregon, which carries a 6-0 conference mark. The Cardinal need to finish first in the division to host the Pac-12 championship game.
Another option would be Spartan Stadium, the team's home from 1996 until its 2005 relocation to Houston. There are two major issues with the 30,000-seat stadium, however: an artificial turf surface and an extremely narrow playing field.
Which leaves one very intriguing option: AT&T Park, the home of the world champion San Francisco Giants. The baseball stadium has hosted soccer matches before, including an Earthquakes' match against Houston this March.
Unfortunately for the Quakes, their brand-new soccer specific stadium won't be opening until 2014, and their current home isn't fit to host MLS Cup. The league and the team would never publicly admit it of course, but there might be a few more Oregon Duck football fans in soccer circles over the next few weeks.
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