Centerline Report: Quakes call many Bay Area stadiums home

A look ahead of the Quakes opening Levi's® Stadium on Saturday

Since its founding as a charter member of Major League Soccer, the San Jose Earthquakes soccer club has called two stadiums home: Spartan Stadium from 1999 to 2005 and Buck Shaw Stadium from 2008 to the present. But through its 17 MLS seasons, the Quakes have hosted the occasional home game at many of the most recognizable facilities throughout the Bay Area, with newly constructed Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara set to be the latest.

The new home of the San Francisco 49ers will get its christening on August 2 when the Earthquakes host the Seattle Sounders. The state-of-the-art stadium, with a price tag well over a billion dollars, has a seating capacity of just under 70,000, and it has been designed to host soccer, in addition to American football, with an eye toward one day bidding for World Cup matches when the tournament returns to the U.S. That the Quakes get the play the first sporting event at Levi’s Stadium marks a major milestone for the club.

The history of San Jose soccer includes games played at the 49ers’ old facility at Candlestick Point. Back in 2002, the Quakes played a friendly against Mexico City giant Club America. In 2009, a huge doubleheader crowd of 61,572 assembled at Candlestick Park to watch the Earthquakes take on the Columbus Crew in the opener and European champions FC Barcelona battle Chivas de Guadalajara in the nightcap. The venerable stadium, in the midst of celebrating its last summer, plays host to the Quakes and La Liga champions Atletico Madrid in a much anticipated match on July 27.

San Francisco has also seen the northward visit of the Earthquakes to the Giants’ ballpark at China Basin when San Jose played a tense St. Patrick’s Day match against the Houston Dynamo in 2012. A 1-0 loss that afternoon proved bitter on the day, but the team rebounded nicely over the rest of the season, staying unbeaten back at Buck Shaw Stadium and going on to capture the MLS Supporters’ Shield.

The City by the Bay has also served as the Quakes’ home away from home for the U.S. Open Cup. In 2001, Negoesco Stadium on the campus of the University of San Francisco was the site of an epic quarterfinal match against the LA Galaxy. Tied 1-1 after regulation and extra-time, the game went to penalty kicks, with the visitors triumphant 10-9. The Earthquakes also played Open Cup matches at historic Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park as part of the 2012 and 2014 tournaments.

When the Earthquakes rejoined MLS ahead of the 2008 season, instead of returning to Spartan Stadium, host of the league’s inaugural game in 1996, the club kicked off its rebirth at the Oakland Coliseum just up Highway 880. The Chicago Fire, with star Cuauhtemoc Blanco, was the opponent, and over 20,000 were on hand to welcome back the Quakes. San Jose played four more times at the Coliseum that season and next, all against the David Beckham-led Galaxy, with the highlight a dramatic 3-2 comeback victory in 2008 secured by a late Ryan Cochrane goal.

Closer to San Jose, remodeled Stanford Stadium has become home to the biggest attractions put on by the Earthquakes. For four straight summers, crowds approaching, and recently exceeding, 50,000 have converged on the Stanford campus to cheer on the Quakes and revel in the grandest postgame fireworks shows on the Peninsula. Taking a look back to the days of the Clash, and San Jose soccer invaded the old Stanford Stadium for regular season matches to start the 1998 season and a July 4, 1999 doubleheader as part of the Women’s World Cup that saw the biggest crowd in club history, 73,123, enjoy a semifinal victory by the U.S. over Brazil and a 2-1 shootout win for the Clash over DC United.

Such a storied history of San Jose soccer in the Bay Area will enter a new era in 2015, when the Earthquakes open their brand new soccer specific stadium. Taking form on Coleman Avenue near the airport, the new stadium promises the first permanent home for professional soccer that San Jose has ever known. An 18,000 crown jewel in its own right, the Quakes new home, a dream that has taken 40 years to become reality, will only add to the wealth of local stadiums. Touring the Bay Area all these years has made for a nice change of scenery, and playing at Levi’s Stadium in August will be yet another thrill, but for Earthquakes fans, opening day 2015 can’t come soon enough.

Robert Jonas is a writer for CenterLineSoccer.com and SJEarthquakes.com. Send him feedback on Twitter: @RobertJonas