Earlier this morning, the San Francisco 49ers and San Jose Earthquakes announced a partnership to "promote the South Bay as a regular host of top-tier soccer events over the next five years." The two franchises are South Bay neighbors and will be opening new stadiums over the next year. The 49ers open up Levi's Stadium in two months, while the Earthquakes anticipate opening their own stadium in time for the 2015 season.
The two franchises have already partnered up, but this makes it a bit more official. The 49ers are going to open Levi's Stadium with a soccer match between the Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC on August 2. This new partnership will allow them to expand this to promoting bigger matches in the region. The Earthquakes will be moving into an 18,000 seat stadium, which is great for their needs, and smaller soccer events. However, partnering with the 49ers makes it easier to potentially bring major international drawing clubs and events to the region.
The partnership is not a surprising once we know the history involved. According to Sports Business Daily, 49ers President Paraag Marathe and Earthquakes President Dave Kaval were classmates at Stanford's business school. That got discussions rolling for the Earthquakes-Sounders match, and the larger partnership developed from there.
The Oakland Coliseum has hosted some bigger names, and Cal will host Real Madrid vs. Inter Milan in July, but this partnership could allow for more regular matches. The 49ers confirmed that the stadium fits the required dimension for international matches, which could open the door for Levi's Stadium to host World Cup matches. The US hosted the World Cup in 1994, and the growth in soccer's popularity since then (thanks in part to FIFA requiring a domestic league be launched after the 1994 World Cup) should be enough to get the World Cup back in the US in the near future. The event has been scheduled out to 2022, but the recent news that bribery might have helped Qatar gain the 2022 World Cup (in equally shocking news, the sun rose this morning), could open the bidding again. And even if not, 2026 and beyond are options.
The 49ers have already scheduled some sizable events for Levi's Stadium, including Wrestlemania 31 and Super Bowl L. They also have numerous smaller events set for the arena, including the MLS match in August, and Cal-Oregon in October. Given that the stadium only hosts 10-12 NFL contests per year, and given that the 49ers have a sizable loan to pay off, the team will be looking to book any and all major events they can. They bid on the 2016 college football playoff title game, but even though they fell short, I'd imagine they'll take another crack at it.