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Originally published April 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 23, 2008 at 11:13 AM

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Soccer notebook | Mexico team's visit to Seattle is a big hit — Brazil next?

One look at the crowd of 56,416 and it was easy to see that Wednesday night's Mexico-China soccer match was a huge success. For the fans, virtually...

Seattle Times staff reporter

One look at the crowd of 56,416 and it was easy to see that Wednesday night's Mexico-China soccer match was a huge success.

For the fans, virtually all of whom roared their appreciation for Mexico and turned SoDo into a small city of Latinos. For the match sponsors. For organizers. And for Major League Soccer and one of its newest franchises, Seattle Sounders FC.

"It showcases the opportunity that exists for the Sounders when they come into Major League Soccer, depending on the personnel they put on the field," said Dan Courtemanche, senior vice president of marketing and communications for MLS, who attended last night's game. But even a Sounders roster without a Latino player, he figured, might draw well among the Latino demographic because of their appreciation and knowledge of soccer.

"When you put a quality product on the field, the opportunity exists to have a large fan following," Courtemanche said. "We've seen it already with what the Sounders have done with 14,000 season-ticket deposits, and that's a tremendous start. But this takes the brand to the next level when you see this tonight."

MLS, Soccer United Marketing and Sounders FC representatives determined through research that a large enough Latino fan base lived in a three-hour drive radius of Seattle, and the decision was made to bring Mexico to the city.

The fans came from the Yakima Valley, the Portland area, Skagit County and plenty of points in-between.

"There were a lot of individuals who weren't so sure how the Mexican national team would do in Seattle," Courtemanche said, "and I think those doubts are now erased."

Next up, Brazil?

Seattle appears a likely destination for Brazil's national team, and soon, according to sources close to the situation who did not want to be identified.

The opponent would be Canada and the match would take place in the first part of June. Contract negotiations are ongoing.

Brazil is a five-time World Cup champion, most recently winning the title in 2002.

Fiesta inside and outside

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The crowd arrived early, some four hours before kickoff, and turned the area around Qwest Field into a mass of humanity.

Fans from all over the Northwest snapped up Mexico T-shirts, jerseys, scarves and caps, some bringing their own flags and airhorns. At the Futbol Fiesta in the stadium's North parking lot, the crowd was thick and lines were long for an autograph from former national team player Ramon Ramirez and other activities an hour after the event opened at 4 p.m.

A strolling troupe of mariachi musicians provided free entertainment. It turned out that the group was from Wenatchee, and is part of a high-school program for mariachi musicians there.

By 6 p.m., more than 55,000 tickets had been sold and the gates opened to a cheer.

"We're so happy," said Jose Garcia of Mount Vernon, clad in Mexico's red, white and green. "It's been many years since I saw the national team in Mexico City. Now they are here."

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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