Major League Soccer's facilities have come a long way over the past decade or so, and the rest of the planet is taking notice.
England-based magazine FourFourTwo has ranked what it considers the top 100 soccer stadiums on earth, and with slightly more than half the list revealed in a gradual countdown to No. 1, four MLS venues – and one emeritus – have been honored thus far.
The Vancouver Whitecaps' home, BC Place, checks in at No. 95, honored for its sweeping lines and awe-inspiring retractable roof, along with the sound and fury on display when the 'Caps host their Cascadia Cup rivals from Seattle and Portland.
FFT ranks Red Bull Arena at No. 86, praising the compact design, noise-holding roof and “brilliant spectacle” on offer when rivals like New York City FC visit RBNY. It took about a decade for the venue to become a reality, but few of the home fans in Harrison would say it wasn't worth the wait.
Few who have witnessed a packed house at CenturyLink Field would be surprised to see the Seattle Sounders' stomping grounds on this list, and they won't be disappointed: it places 63rd here. With MLS's biggest crowds and acoustics carefully crafted to funnel the crowd's exhortations directly towards the field of play – “it has set world records for crowd roars,” FFT notes approvingly – C-Link has been one of the league's more daunting venues since the Rave Green made their expansion debut in 2009.
Though it ceased to be the home of the LA Galaxy when StubHub Center was unveiled in 2003, the Rose Bowl remains an iconic site in North American soccer history and the “grand old stadium” has gotten the nod at No. 49 on FFT's rundown. The cavernous bowl set in idyllic SoCal scenery has hosted an array of massive and memorable matches, including the 1994 World Cup final – though US fans will wince at the memory of last month's CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico for some time to come.
But the current leader among MLS home fields is Portland's Providence Park, which heads the group at No. 40 overall. The eastern stand's floating wooden roof earns particular praise, as does the stadium's focus on its North End, where "Timbers Army congregate and produce some of the most intricate and beautiful Tifos you will see in North America." The fan passion and difficult ticket – the waitlist for season-tix runs more than 12,000 deep – result in a "cathedral-like feel."
What is your favorite MLS stadium? And will FourFourTwo's panel agree by granting it a place in the stadium picks still to come?