By JOSE M. ROMERO
On the pitch, the Seattle Sounders are focused on their opening-round playoff series that begins this weekend against the L.A. Galaxy.
Off the field, the team is firming up plans for a return to Casa Grande, Ariz., in winter 2011 for preseason camp.
Sources close to the team and and Grande Sports World, the soccer complex in Casa Grande about an hour's drive south of Phoenix, said the Sounders are set for a return to the eight-field, 45-acre facility. Discussions are ongoing and nothing has been made official, but the first team to arrive at Grande Sports World is likely to be Real Salt Lake in late January. RSL was scheduled first because it has CONCACAF Champions League matches in February.
The Sounders and expansion Vancouver Whitecaps are scheduled for early February arrivals, followed by the expansion Portland Timbers and New York Red Bulls, and possibly one or two more teams.
RSL, Seattle and Vancouver spent time at Grande Sports World last offseason. So did the Colorado Rapids and Galaxy. Additionally, the Kansas City Wizards, who trained in Arizona last winter, are set for a return trip, this time to Surprise, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb that is also home to the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball.
Reach 11, a complex of fields in North Phoenix, also figures to host MLS teams. The Columbus Crew, Chivas USA, Chicago Fire and San Jose Earthquakes rounded out the list of teams to spend time in the desert last offseason, and matches and training were held at Phoenix's Grand Canyon University and Arizona State University in Tempe.
The Valley of the Sun is already home to many baseball teams' spring training; now it is a legitimate destination for MLS clubs seeking good weather and dry fields year in and year out.