Sounders to host MLS kickoff again

For the third season in a row, the first kick of the new Major League Soccer season will occur at Qwest Field.

MLS announced Monday that its 2011 season will begin at 6:30 p.m. March 15 with the Los Angeles Galaxy visiting Seattle Sounders FC. The game will be shown live on ESPN.

The league began its 2009 season with New York visiting the Sounders for their inaugural game and its 2010 season with Philadelphia playing its first game at Seattle.

“We are honored to host the first match of the MLS season for the third year in a row,” Sounders owner Joe Roth said through a club press release. “It is a true tribute to the Sounders FC fans who have created a passionate and exciting atmosphere unlike any in the league.”

The 2011 opener pairs the Sounders with the team that ended their 2010 season in the first round of the MLS playoffs. The Galaxy also is the defending Supporters’ Shield champion, marking the best regular-season record in the league, and is defending Western Conference champion.

Four days after opening the league season, the Sounders will travel to New York where they will provide the opposition for the Red Bulls’ home opener at 4:30 p.m. March 19.

“Our team looks forward to playing the two division champions – Los Angeles and New York – in our first two games,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s a difficult task, but we relish the opportunity.”

Also on March 19, the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps will make their debut with a home game against Canadian rival Toronto FC, and the Portland Timbers will kick off against defending MLS Cup champion Colorado. The Timbers’ first game at renovated PGE Park in Portland will come March 26 against Toronto.

Only the home openers for all 18 MLS clubs were announced Monday. The remainder of the league schedule will be released in early February.

Each team will play a balanced 34-game schedule with home-and-away matches against the other 17 teams.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808