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Originally published Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:01 PM

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Seattle to host World Cup qualifier between U.S., Panama

Seattle will host its first World Cup qualifier in 37 years this summer, as the U.S. men's national team plays Panama on June 11 at CenturyLink Field.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Record-breaking soccer crowds in Seattle haven't translated to much of a national team presence.

The city has led MLS in attendance the past four years, but the U.S. men's team hasn't played here in a stand-alone game since 2003 or in a World Cup qualifier since 1976.

Both those streaks will come to an end this summer as U.S. Soccer announced Thursday it will play a June 11 qualifier against Panama at CenturyLink Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and tickets, starting at $50, go on sale April 2 at 10 a.m.

"Going to Seattle for a World Cup qualifier was really high on our list because of the fantastic atmosphere in Seattle," said national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann at SoundersFC.com.

"It was a no-brainer. We knew we had to go to Seattle and the sooner the better. It will give us, hopefully, a real advantage in our game."

So why aren't there more U.S. games here?

Klinsmann noted that travel for European-based players can make the long trips to the Northwest difficult, but a June game means those players will already be in their offseason.

Another obstacle here is the artificial turf at CenturyLink Field — a far-from-preferred surface at any level, let alone for the national team. As a result, temporary grass will be installed for the qualifier and also be in place for the Sounders' June 8 league game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Adrian Hanauer, Seattle's general manager, noted temporary grass can raise concerns, as well, but "it'll be the best we can make it."

One potential letdown in Thursday's announcement was that attendance would be capped at 42,000 due to a Mariners home game that night across the street. The Sounders will likely average more than that this season.

"Look, the reality is there's a relationship between the stadiums and the city that provides a framework for attendance," Hanauer explained. "It relates to traffic, and uses of parking garages, ingress and egress of pedestrians, but for us, we're sort of making the best of the situation. Sell 42,000 tickets and then see."

The U.S. has a 6-2-1 record in Seattle, including wins in the last five games by a 16-1 goal differential.

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid called Thursday's announcement "great for the city."

"We deserve to have a qualifier here," he added.

NOTES

• Sounders FC's April 7 home game against Chivas USA has been rescheduled by MLS for Sept. 4 to accommodate Seattle's upcoming CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series.

• The Sounders will face Mexico's Santos Laguna on April 2 (home) and April 9 (away). The Los Angeles, another CCL semifinalist, received similar consideration by the league ahead of its series with Monterrey of Mexico.

• CONCACAF Gold Cup tickets for a July 11 doubleheader at CenturyLink Field featuring Mexico-Canada and Panama-Martinique went on sale Thursday.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @joshuamayers.

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