Eagle summer venues: Avaya Stadium

The USA Men's Eagles - along with the rugby union national teams of Canada, Fiji, Japan, Samoa, and Tonga - will contest the 2015 World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup on four separate match days in the next month. Northern California will be host to four matches in the span of a week at Avaya Stadium in San Jose and Bonney Field in Sacramento.

Nearly six years ago, the first images of a proposed Major League Soccer stadium in San Jose were unveiled. In a video clip not 30 seconds in length, a digital mock-up of an 18,000-seat, high-tech venue for the latest incarnation of the Earthquakes lit expectations for investors, prospective ticket buyers, and the greater soccer fan base.

Where most noticed the 18-yard boxes and goal frames with digital nets, USA Rugby Chief Executive Officer Nigel Melville envisioned a try zone and rugby posts. Avaya Stadium, as it is now called, was constructed to host both soccer and rugby matches.

"This was something that could not have been done without the vision to make sure that a rugby pitch was going to fit," San Jose Earthquakes President Dave Kaval said at a press conference announcing Avaya Stadium as one of the host venues of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018. "And I remember Patricia [Ernstrom, executive director at San Jose Sports Authority] calling me, saying, 'Is it wide enough for rugby?'


"Of course, our architects made it to the right dimensions. We designed this stadium with the forethought to say, 'Hey, not only are we going to have a great soccer stadium, but we can accommodate other events and other sports.'"

It did not take long for Major League Soccer to return to the San Francisco Bay Area after the Earthquakes, a charter member of the 1996 start-up competition, moved to Houston following the conclusion of the 2005 season. In 2007, an ownership group exercised the option agreed to by the League to purchase an expansion franchise, which would take the logo, colors, and records of the previous Earthquakes.

Throughout professional soccer's history in San Jose - dating back to the Earthquakes of the 1970s and 1980s that played in the North American Soccer League and Western Soccer League - there had not been a go-to site for the world's game. During the initial MLS run, the Earthquakes shared San Jose State University's Spartan Stadium, while Santa Clara University's Buck Shaw Stadium, Stanford Stadium, O.co Coliseum, and a few other venues in the area shared the "expansion" Earthquakes' home-field duties.

Though the eventual Avaya Stadium was proposed in 2009, it took nearly three years and a unified stand from hundreds of club supporters for the planned development permit to gain ultimate approval. The permit was upheld after a San Jose Planning Commission vote in February 2012 and a Guinness World Record-breaking groundbreaking ceremony was held eight months later.

The Earthquakes won the MLS Supporters Shield for best regular season record in 2012 and sent forward Chris Wondolowski to FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil before announcing the opening day date for Avaya Stadium. Twelve thousand of the 18,000 seats were sold to season ticket holders, and the Earthquakes treated a sold-out crowd to a win in the first match played at the club's new home in March of this year.

The stadium's technological advances, including being cloud-enabled, earned TheStadiumBusiness Award for product innovation, while it was also shortlisted for the venue of the year award. North America's largest outdoor bar, field-level suites and club seats, and a world-class pitch for athletes and spectators alike were more than enough reasons for a visit from the Eagles.

The release of the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup fixture list in February of this year revealed Avaya Stadium as host to a doubleheader featuring Canada, Japan, Samoa, and the United States. Three months later, it was announced Avaya Stadium would also be one of the homes of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018. Before the end of the month, Major League Soccer announced the 2016 MLS All-Star Game would be held in San Jose.

The northern California region is home to several Eagles and Eagle hopefuls, as well as a rugby community that has produced multiple club and college champions in recent times. International rugby returned to the area for the first time since 2009 when the U.S. faced Canada at Bonney Field in Sacramento last summer.

Bookmark USARugby.org for a look at the Eagles' second summer venue: Bonney Field.