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Seattle teams react to crowd ban: Sounders postpone, Dragons to play in empty stadium

The Sounders' home match against FC Dallas on March 21 has been postponed. (AP)

Seattle-based sports teams are reacting after Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced an immediate ban of events with crowds of 250 or more in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties through the rest of March due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

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The XFL’s Seattle Dragons will continue ahead with Sunday’s scheduled game against the Los Angeles Wildcats at CenturyLink Field, but fans will not be let into the stadium. The game will kickoff as planned at 4 p.m. and air live on ESPN2.

The Seattle Sounders, who share CenturyLink Field with the Dragons, have opted to postpone their next home match, which was set for Saturday, March 21 against FC Dallas.

“As the developments surrounding COVID-19 in our region evolve, Seattle Sounders FC has been working in real time with regional health authorities and government officials to do our part in combating this public health crisis,” reads a statement from the Sounders. “Our organization must remain flexible in these efforts, and at this time, that includes heeding Governor Inslee’s call to postpone our home match on March 21 versus FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field.

“Throughout this process, Sounders FC has stated that nothing is more important than public safety and the wellbeing of our fans. With that in mind, we respect the difficult decision that has been made today, and our club will continue following the guidelines set forth by our public health authorities and government agencies.”

No announcement has been made as of yet about the Sounders’ match Saturday in Houston, another city that is currently taking measures to limit crowds due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Houston Rodeo, a week-long event that draws about 100,000 people, was canceled Wednesday.

The good news for the Sounders is that their March 21 game against FC Dallas was their only home match scheduled between now and April 18. The crowd ban in Washington state is currently through March 31, though Inslee said it is “highly likely to be extended.”

CenturyLink Field announced that all upcoming events will be either postponed or held without spectators until further notice.

At the University of Washington, all home games for teams currently playing will proceed as scheduled but spectators will not be allowed.

The Tacoma Defiance, a Sounders affiliate, announced that their United Soccer League championship match against the San Diego Loyal will be played behind closed doors Wednesday night at Cheney Stadium.

The Western Hockey League, which includes the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips as members, announced that it “fully understands and respects the position taken by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee today and will comply with the public gathering requirements.”

Related: Shut down of public events puts Thunderbirds games in jeopardy

WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said in a statement: “We take the safety of our players, officials, staff, fans, and everyone associated with the WHL very seriously, and will take every step necessary to assist in containing this virus.”

On a national scale, the biggest sports news of the day is that the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that start next week will be played with only “essential staff and limited family attendance.” The men’s tournament will have games in Spokane on March 26 and 28, while women’s games will be played at campus sites in the early rounds and will include regional rounds in Portland. Gonzaga will have teams in each tournament, but no other Washington state teams are expected to make the cut.

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Follow live COVID-19 updates from MyNorthwest.com