By Dean McArdle
Palo Alto Online Sports
The stands at Stanford Stadium have rested quietly the past six months, the echoes of Luck-inspired yells slowly faded. But the columns will shake again on Saturday, neither from a first down nor a touchdown, but from an Earthquake.
Major League Soccer's San Jose Earthquakes, that is, as they host the L.A. Galaxy at 7 p.m. in a contest of California rivals known as the "California Clasico." The Earthquakes are leading the MLS Western Division with a record of 10-3-3, while the Galaxy are fifth at 6-8-2.
"This is the 'California Clasico,' NorCal versus SoCal. There is a lot of history that goes with that," said Earthquakes' President Dave Kaval, a Menlo Park resident and Stanford graduate.
Excitement around the rivalry combined with the Galaxy's international stars David Beckham and U.S. Olympian Landon Donovan have made Saturday's contest worthy of national TV coverage (ESPN2), and a larger venue than the Earthquakes' Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara.
Todd Dunivant, a Stanford grad and former San Jose Earthquake, is a defender for the Galaxy.
The 50,000-seat Stanford Stadium is sold out, ensuring the attendance will eclipse the Earthquakes' previous club record of 41,028 for a non-doubleheader match. That record was also set at Stanford Stadium in July of 2011.
"Soccer has arrived," Kaval said. "These are the type of canary-in-the-coal mine events when MLS becomes main stream."
Getting the event off the ground has been a joint collaboration between the Earthquakes and the Stanford Athletics Department. Stanford's Assistant Athletic Director Ray Purpur worked alongside Kaval getting the event to Stanford, and sees it as an opportunity to bring people on to campus.
"One of our goals with this event is to bring the community onto the Stanford campus," Purpur said. "It is creating a whole new group of people that will see our stadium and maybe leave thinking, 'I'm going to come back.'"
The sellout will be both the Earthquake and Stanford's biggest event of the summer, and a large revenue generator for both organizations. Harnessing the attention the event will garner is paramount to both party's interests.
"We want to create an ambiance that people will remember their whole life," Kaval said. "Fan experience is a huge part of what we pride ourselves on."
Stanford is hoping the game will entice people back for football games in the fall, bringing in new ticket sales to a program that, until last year, had struggled to sell out home games.
"We will have our people out there selling season tickets," Purpur said. "See if people love the stadium and love the atmosphere and maybe have an interest in American football versus futbol."
The distinction between football and futbol will make a difference on the field as well as in the front offices. Rebuilt following the 2005 football season, Stanford Stadium's new incarnation is as a strictly football facility.
Kevin Moore, the field manager for both Stanford Stadium and the Earthquakes' Buck Shaw Stadium, knows the differences well.
"The stadium is built for football, not soccer, and a soccer field is a lot wider," Moore said. "Their home field is 74 yards wide and this will only be 70 yards wide."
Twelve feet of difference is still within the FIFA regulations, but it is not the only difference between the play surfaces. Soccer fields are level, allowing for unaltered ball movement as the ball rolls. Football fields are crowned, meaning the center of the field is several feet higher than the sides allowing rainwater to run off.
Moore assures that the field differences will not inhibit play, though, and is confident that the field will be player- and ESPN-ready on Saturday.
While the game on the field is the main attraction, it is just part of the show. The Earthquakes have planned a full day of events for fans.
The festivities begin before the match with tailgating allowed in all parking lots and a club-organized tailgate area known as the Epicenter Fan Zone. The Epicenter will feature live music from local band Melted State along with inflatables, foosball tables, face painting, sign making stations, and concessions.
After the game the Earthquakes have planned a fireworks extravaganza, and will also feature a halftime show that will pay tribute to military personnel.
"We did everything we could to have a world-class event," Kaval said. "It is one of the best soccer markets in the U.S., and I think events like this show that."