Every major football league in the world is playing at some capacity during this particular stretch of the year. So why was the fourth-largest football crowd on Earth over the weekend located in America's Pacific Northwest?
To honor an American goalkeeping legend, that's why. Typically, the Seattle Sounders put a cap on ticket sales around 37,000 per match (a limit that they've never failed to reach in Major League Soccer play).
But Saturday night was special. It was the night that the club was honoring it's All-Star goalkeeper, four-time World Cup participant and former Millwall, Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham man, Kasey Keller. As far as club officials were concerned, no fan would be turned away if they could help it.
And none were, as Seattle fans poured in to see the legend in his final regular-season home match of his career.
Despite allowing a first-half goal to the visiting San Jose Earthquakes, it was Keller who kept the Sounders in the match and kept the crowd fired up, providing save after save to keep the deficit manageable. But fans could sense that there was something even more special in store for them that evening. They could smell it in the air.
And then, in the 65th minute, with the Sounders still down a goal, a mistake from Seattle defender Patrick Ianni allowed the dangerous Khari Stephenson to race toward goal all on his own. Surely the home side was finished.
Enter the 41-year-old Kasey Keller, who out of nowhere met Stephenson at the edge of the box to make the save. When the ball fell to the feet of Golden Boot winning Chris Wondolowski, Keller cut off every angle available to make the second save. When the ball fell again to the feet of Tottenham Hotspur loanee Simon Dawkins, Keller was on his feet again to stop the shot from the edge of the box, only to see it bounce again to Wondolowski.
For the fourth time in 12 seconds, Keller smothered the shot from Wondolowski. As the old saying goes: the crowd went wild. All 64,000 of them. For 12 seconds, even though Kasey Keller left Europe to retire in his home city of Seattle, Europe came to Keller to say goodbye.
And in the spotlight of national television broadcast coverage, the American international reminded everyone watching why Seattle fans have spent every match for the past year chanting "one more year" at their team captain.
The saves (just four of many more he accumulated on the night) turned out to be crucial to the final result. Despite the deficit that Seattle endured well past the 80th minute, late goals from Fredy Montero and Sammy Ochoa allowed the city to send Keller off with an exciting come-from-behind victory.
And in the post-match ceremony that followed, honoring Keller's three years in Seattle and his long career abroad, nearly every one of those 64,000 stayed to pay their respects.
So, if you happen to live across the pond and have ever found yourself wondering what that Kasey Keller bloke is up to these days after 19 years in Europe, now you know. He's still making big saves to win matches, and helping to grow one of the largest football fan-bases in North America.
The script for "Kasey Keller Night" in Seattle couldn't have been more perfect.
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