The hexagonal rounds have already been drawn, but where they'll actually take place is not yet known. Unlike most nations, US Soccer doesn't have a singular stadium like BMO Field for Canada or Estadio Azteca for Mexico. This could be because the USA has many qualified stadiums, or it could simply be US Soccer wanting to give fans in multiple areas of the nation the chance to see their national side play. Regardless, one area they've missed entirely over the past few years is the Pacific Northwest. The last USMNT game here was a 2009 USMNT match against Grenada in Seattle.
But with the Hexagonal almost upon us we should be hearing about the stadium selections in the not-to-distant future. As such, I'm going to make the case for Jeld-Wen Field.
Size Doesn't Matter That Much
One of the primary arguments against Jeld-Wen Field is that it only seats 20,438 people which is simply too small for a USMNT match these days. That would be a great problem to have if it were true. The fact is that the USMNT is not above and beyond the realm of 20,000 seat stadiums. Look where it frequently visits these days:
- Columbus Crew Stadium - 20,145
- Livestrong Sporting Park - 18,467
- BBVA Compass Stadium - 22,000
All three stadiums have been or will be used in recent USMNT games and yet their size is just around the same as Jeld-Wen Field.
Should Portland host the USMNT and Spain, Mexico, or some other big name powerhouse? Probably not as those games can sell out 60,000+ stadiums (though mostly due to the other team). However, for most of the opponents in this year's Hexagonal, Jeld-Wen Field will work out just fine.
A Truly Passionate Fanbase
Portland is well known for its passionate fanbase with regards to not only the Portland Timbers, but also for the US Women's National Team. This is a city who has grown beyond just loving a team. This is a city that loves the game. While I don't doubt that Columbus will sell out a USMNT game, the fact remains that they can't sell out regular MLS games. In Portland, and Jeld-Wen Field, US Soccer can bet on getting a great, passionate crowd for whoever they play. And who wouldn't want the Timbers Army backing them up against some of the toughest opponents in North America?
Additionally, in Portland you wouldn't have to worry about another team's fan base clogging up the stadium. Even a Mexico game would be a difficult prospect for Mexican fans. Yes, Portland has plenty of Mexicans in the city. But look at how fast regular season games have sold out. These tickets would go fast and it will likely be Portland Timbers fans who have the first chance or the most ambition to get tickets. While there's no doubt some overlap with Timbers and Mexico fans, I would be willing to wager that the Timbers-USMNT overlap is much greater.
I'm Sick of Talking About Turf
As far as I've been told, one of the big sticking points for US Soccer with regards to the PNW has been the use of field turf over grass. As if the players are going to take one step out on to it, fall down, and break their legs. It's a completely asinine excuse if you ask me.
Look at our Portland Timbers squad. They play on field turf for every single home game. They even practice on field turf (as well as natural grass). So what US Soccer is telling us, right now, is that their highly skilled, mostly European-trained players, who are considered our elite of the elite, are too dainty to play a single match on turf? Is that some kind of joke?
I could reference the studies which have proven turf doesn't cause more injuries than grass on average and I could state, once again, that FIFA has given its blessings to field turf, but that would only be encouraging the debate. A debate for which there should no longer be a debate. If our squad can deal with it week in week out, the USMNT should be able to deal with it. In fact, perhaps US Soccer should have our national team train more often on turf.
Oh and that temporary grass laid over turf idea is totally insane. Those grass fields are often torn to shreds by the time the game is done.
So there you have it, my reasoning for why Jeld-Wen Field should get a WCQ match this year. Will it actually happen? I'm doubtful. US Soccer will probably give one to Memphis, another to Detroit, and a third to Cheyenne for some unknown reason. Meanwhile, Portlanders will be getting ready for the upcoming MLS season, cheering on from a long ways away. Just don't take us for granted too long US Soccer...
Do you think Jeld-Wen Field and Portland deserve a WCQ match?