The Seattle Sounders will soon be sharing CenturyLink Field with another tenant. The XFL announced on Tuesday that Seattle would be among their inaugural eight teams with those home games being played at CenturyLink Field. Games are scheduled to begin in February 2020. Seven of the eight teams will play in current NFL markets and three of them will be sharing stadiums with MLS tenants (the team D.C. will play at Audi Field and the Los Angeles team will play at StubHub Center).
Sounder at Heart has also learned that the teams are expected to play a 10-game schedule, which means the Seattle team would play at least five home games. Presumably the league will be split into two four-team divisions and teams would play their division opponents twice and the others once. There would also likely be some sort of playoff, which could add games to the schedule.
Still, the impact on the Sounders is expected to be minimal. Although the Sounders’ schedule is not publicly released until the January before the season starts, the team has scheduling priority and would have the ability to black out certain dates (like a potential home opener). With no NFL games to compete with and few big events that time of year, the calendar should be reasonably open. In 2019, for instance, eight of the 11 likely XFL weekends appear to be open. Considering the Sounders have only had to play on gridiron lines three times in 10 years — and two of those were during the playoffs — the chances of the XFL forcing that to happen seems exceptionally unlikely.
The other potential issue could be the wear and tear on the turf. While it won’t help things, whatever damage 22 football players can do over the course of five or six games almost certainly pales in comparison to the impact of covering the field in hundreds of tons of dirt for events like Supercross and monster-truck rallies.
Understandably, Sounders fans’ nerves are a bit frayed when it comes to stadium availability. Only time will tell how this plays out. That said, there seems to be a reasonable hope that the XFL’s impact on the Sounders fan experience should be minimal if not virtually invisible.