Change comes to CenturyLink with Chelsea's friendly against Sounders FC
Three years have passed since the last Sounders-Chelsea friendly and much has changed — notably the English team recently became the reigning club champion of Europe.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Chelsea at a glanceLocation: London (Fulham)
Year founded: 1905
Colors: Blue and white
Stadium: Stamford Bridge (capacity: 41,837)
Manager: Roberto Di Matteo
Owner: Roman Abramovich
Nickname: The Blues
Last season's payroll (source: ESPN): $169,897,463.
Value (source: Forbes): $761,000,000
Top players: M Frank Lampard (186 goals, team Player of the Year in 2004-05, 2009), GK Petr Cech (0.75 goals allowed per game, team Player of the Year in 2011).
Titles: UEFA Champions League (2011-12), English Premier League (2004-05, 2005-06, 2009-10), FA Cup (1970, 1997, 2000, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012), League Cup (1965, 1998, 2005, 2007), UEFA Cup (1971, 1998).
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2009: A special year for Seattle soccer.
Sounders FC, the greenest team in MLS both in uniform color and as a first-year franchise, is on its way to a spectacular expansion season, and part of the fun includes a July 18 friendly against Chelsea FC.
A crowd of 65,289 marks the city's third-largest for a soccer game at the time and the hometown team plays tough with the renowned English club in a 2-0 defeat.
Three years later to the day, the Sounders and Chelsea will meet again in a friendly Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Many players on both teams may be the same, but much has changed.
For the visitors, that mainly comes in title.
With a stunning run through the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League, Chelsea returns to Seattle as the reigning club champion of Europe after beating Germany's Bayern Munich in a dramatic final. Other additions to The Blues' trophy case since their last visit have come from winning the English Premier League (2009-10) and two FA Cups (2010, 2012).
Overall, the storied club has won four league titles, seven FA Cups and four League Cups.
Chelsea's hope is that two trophy runs to close the 2012 season, despite a disappointing sixth-place league finish, will lead to even further growth for the super-club.
"Winning two cups by the end of the season was amazing," said defender Gary Cahill, "so we need to push on from that. It was nice to be involved in all the competitions like we were. Hopefully we can compete more in the Premier League this season, as well."
Like Chelsea, the Sounders have also had much to celebrate since the teams' last meeting.
Seattle has graduated from an upstart expansion club to one with championship expectations. Three years have also resulted in as many U.S. Open Cup titles, the American equivalent to the storied FA Cup, and the Sounders will play for an unprecedented fourth straight in August.
Much of that success — or Seattle's record attendance that compares favorably to EPL teams — hasn't made it to some of the Chelsea players.
"I heard a little bit," Cahill said. "I know obviously football — or soccer — is getting a lot bigger in the States. They're producing some good players that are obviously playing in the Premier League. ... We came in (Saturday), so no doubt we'll learn a little bit about that in the next few days."
"I don't really watch American football," added up-and-coming midfielder Josh McEachran, 19.
Wednesday's friendly should give them a feel for Seattle's soccer support. Ticket sales exceeded 49,000 as of last week, which is already larger than the capacity of Chelsea's home stadium (Stamford Bridge holds 41,837).
The Sounders could even end up with a larger mean attendance than the English club with a 39,537 average after 10 MLS home games and plans to increase capacity for future dates against the Los Angeles Galaxy (Aug. 5) and Pacific Northwest rivals Vancouver (Aug. 18) and Portland (Oct. 7).
But on Wednesday, there will be plenty of blue in the stadium, as well.
"There's a lot of Chelsea fans in the States," said Cahill, who signed with the team in January. "It's nice ... for them to come and watch you play, instead of just seeing you (on) TV."
• Chelsea will practice at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and the session at CenturyLink Field will be free to the public. The stadium's northwest gates will open at 6 p.m.; parking in the north lot is $12.
• There are nine players on Chelsea's team who played in the 2009 friendly in Seattle. Four players even remain from the 2004 squad that beat Scottish club Celtic FC, 4-2, here in an exhibition: midfielder Frank Lampard, goalkeeper Petr Cech, and defenders John Terry and Paulo Ferreira.
• Chelsea players exchanged jerseys with a couple of members of the Seahawks after Monday's practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton.
• Kickoff for the U.S. Open Cup final has been set for 6 p.m. on Aug. 8. Sounders FC will play for an unprecedented fourth straight title, on the road against Sporting Kansas City.
|Chelsea is back|
|The Blues will play their fifth game in Seattle in Wednesday's friendly against Sounders FC:|