The San Jose Earthquakes made a surprising announcement yesterday that their home match with the New York Red Bulls scheduled for July 2nd will be moved from Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara to Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto. After playing select matches at the Oakland Coliseum and Candlestick Park in their first two seasons back in MLS, the Earthquakes eliminated the disrupting venue changes from their schedule last season and played all their MLS home games at the Buck.
Moving the New York match to Stanford Stadium should not be as unpopular with the team’s fans and players as the 2008 and ’09 stadium changes resulted in being. First off, Stanford University is much closer to San Jose than either of the other big Bay Area stadiums that can host soccer events, while also being in the middle of a core group of the team’s season ticket base. Heck, with a few of the players living in the immediate area, getting to the game at Stanford will be even easier than the drive down to San Jose.
Secondly, Stanford Stadium provides some nice upgrades to the match day experience that Earthquakes President David Kaval will take advantage of with the rescheduling. As outlined in his weekly blog on the official team website, one of the reasons Kaval offered for making the move was that they could offer a post-game fireworks show from that location — something that is just not possible on the Santa Clara University campus where Buck Shaw Stadium is located. Being that the Red Bulls visit starts off the July Fourth weekend, a celebratory fireworks show was de rigueur for the event to get wider attention from Bay Area soccer fans on what should prove to be a busy time.
The original Stanford Stadium played host to some of the 1994 World Cup matches — including the biggest U.S. Men’s National Team match ever played on home soil, the quarterfinal contest with eventual titlists Brazil. Holding over 80,000 fans back in those days, the stadium has been rebuilt to hold close to 50,000 fans in a more fan-friendly configuration. In a remembrance of Stanford Stadium’s glorious past as a soccer venue and a nod to the long time soccer supporters in the Bay Area, the San Jose Earthquakes will provide a free ticket to the New York Red Bulls game to anyone that can prove they attended the 1994 World Cup quarterfinal match. I’ve already dug around in my closet for my ticket stub — I know it’s in there somewhere…
Lastly, any concern about Stanford Stadium being suitable as a soccer venue should remember that it has hosted a couple of international club friendlies since its redesign in 2007. In the summer of that year, Chelsea FC traveled to California for their preseason training and played a match with Mexico’s Club America in the first event hosted at the new stadium. In 2009, as part of the inaugural World Football Challenge, Club America was there again, this time taking on Serie A power Inter Milan. Both times a satisfied and sun-backed crowd was treated to a great display of the beautiful game at a stadium that was redesigned to be intimate and accommodating. I expect a big crowd — though doubtful of a sellout — to come out for the Red Bulls match, and the hopefully fans will be treated to fireworks on and off the field.