Tickets went on sale Friday for the Major League Soccer championship match in Seattle on Sunday, Nov. 10. The Seattle Sounders will host Toronto FC in the MLS Cup final, for the third time in four seasons.
The Sounders beat Toronto to win the MLS Cup in 2016, but lost to them in the championship match the following year. KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked about the matchup and the history with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.
"I don't think it's quite a rivalry," Thiel said. "Portland and Seattle is a rivalry because that's of proximity. This is sort of coincidence.
"But it's a fun coincidence because this is really two teams that have been able to sustain excellence and I always think that's a big deal.
"The biggest deal for soccer fans here is that it is here. This is going to be an opportunity to showcase Seattle sports passion for the MLS and, really, for the world because even the world of soccer tunes in to the MLS championship."
HOST AND COMPETITOR
Thiel noted that it's the second time Seattle has hosted the MLS Cup final. But it's the first time the Sounders are playing in the championship match in their home city.
"Back in 2009 when (CenturyLink Field) was Qwest Field, Real Salt Lake beat the (LA) Galaxy to win the MLS championship when the league rotated its host cities, similar to what the NFL does with the Super Bowl.
"They've since changed it," Thiel said. "Now the team with the highest seed gets to host and that is Seattle this time."
Thiel said neither Seattle nor Toronto was expected to make the MLS Cup final this year. The Sounders were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. The Reds were the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Both teams won their conference finals on the road against teams that were seeded higher.
"That's the cool thing about this," Thiel said. "These are two teams that don't care about home-field advantage. They have a lot of playoff experience."
He also noted that Seattle beat Toronto 3-2 when the two teams met in April during the regular season.
SECRET TO SUSTAINED SUCCESS
A big story surrounding the playoffs this season is the fact that the Sounders have made the postseason each of their 11 years of existence in the MLS. Thiel says that's the result of great club management.
"The guy I want to really give credit to is Brian Schmetzer, the head coach. He took over for Sigi Schmid (midway through 2016). He's sort of a low-profile guy. He doesn't have the big Sigi personality. But, even though he's low key, he's really got a grip on the game.
"He has been part of the Sounders organization going back to their North American Soccer League days, all the way in 1980 — 39-year association with this organization as a player, assistant coach, head coach.
"He's done a great job. Hats off to a guy who's really sustained excellence no matter what the job was. He deserves a whole lot more credit than he's been getting and this should be his showcase."