Home-field advantage is one of the Seattle Reign’s rewards for finishing with the best regular-season record in the National Women’s Soccer League.
Yet, when the Reign meets FC Kansas City for the NWSL championship at noon Sunday, it won’t be on their usual home pitch.
Bumbershoot has bumped the Reign from its regular-season home at Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center.
And so the club will return to its roots: Starfire Sports Stadium, home field in their 2013 inaugural season.
“We made Memorial home this year, and we worked hard to try to keep it that way,” coach Laura Harvey said. “We knew that there was a potential that if we got to the championship game that we might not be able to play there.
“But once we knew that and once we realized that was the case, and then we got the job done and got (the top seed), we made sure that that’s not going to be anything with how the game goes.”
The championship will pair the top teams of this NWSL season.
Seattle surged to a league-record 16-2-6, while FCKC was runner up at 12-7-5. Along the way, both teams went on league-record, seven-game winning streaks.
Both clubs also have received individual honors, with Kansas City’s Becky Sauerbrunn being named NWSL defender of the year, while Harvey was named coach of the year and Golden Boot winner Kim Little was named most valuable player.
Between them, the finalists accounted for seven players on the NWSL Best XI team: Little, defender Kendall Fletcher, midfielder Jessica Fishlock and forward Nahomi Kawasumi for Seattle; and Sauerbrunn and forwards Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez for Kansas City.
“It’s the right final,” Fishlock said. “I think you’ve got the two teams that finished first and second, and the most consistent throughout the league. I think the games we have against each other are always really exciting. I think that will be the same thing on Sunday, and it will literally be a case of the best team on the day will win, because I don’t think there’s much between us at all.”
The Reign took the regular-season series 1-0-2 with a 3-2 win at home and a pair of 1-1 draws in Missouri.
FCKC advanced past Portland in the semifinal, 2-0; while Seattle knocked off Washington, 2-1.
That one, however, was at Memorial Stadium, where the Reign went 8-0-4 while outscoring opponents 30-11. Kansas City was 4-7-1 away from home and winless over the final four road matches.
For the final, the Reign returns to smaller and sold-out Starfire, where they went 4-6-1 in 2013.
Harvey sees inspiration in that.
“It’s going to be packed out, and Starfire is a special place when it’s like that,” she said. “In a way, we owe it to ourselves from how our season went last year when we played there; we owe it a good sendoff, really, and there’s no better way than going out and trying to get the victory in a championship game.”
The game will be shown on ESPN2.