SAN JOSE -- The Earthquakes have signed a five-year deal with the 49ers to play an annual regular-season Major League Soccer game at Levi's Stadium.

San Jose president Dave Kaval revealed the agreement Thursday in an interview with this newspaper.

"It's a great way to showcase MLS and our team at a bigger venue," he said.

An estimated 45,000 fans are expected Saturday when the Quakes (5-8-5, MLS) play host to first-place Seattle Sounders FC to christen the $1.3 billion Levi's next to Great America amusement park in Santa Clara.

The Quakes plan to open an 18,000-seat soccer stadium next year across from Mineta San Jose International Airport. But the team will continue playing rival Los Angeles at Stanford Stadium and a second "tent pole" event at Levi's.

Levi’s Stadium is set to open for the grand opening ceremonies in Santa Clara, Calif. On Thursday, July 17, 2014. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)
Levi's Stadium is set to open for the grand opening ceremonies in Santa Clara, Calif. On Thursday, July 17, 2014. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group) ( Gary Reyes )

"It not only helps us promote our brand and make us feel major league, but it help us to sell our stadium," Kaval said.

The Earthquakes, in conjunction with MLS officials, haven't decided on opponents for the games at Levi's. But Kaval said San Jose could face Seattle each year to add to the rivalry the 49ers have with the Seahawks.

The Quakes and Sounders also have a rivalry dating four decades to the now-defunct North American Soccer League. The teams play each season for the Heritage Cup, a competition involving former NASL teams. The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps also are eligible to participate but so far have not.

Kaval said future opponents for games at Levi's also could include 2015 expansion team New York City FC, which already has signed marquee players David Villa and Frank Lampard.


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By playing at Levi's and Stanford stadiums, the Earthquakes can "elevate the ability to sign bigger players," Kaval said. "We can elevate local TV packages. There are so many positives externalities from these type of successes."

The 49ers also announced this week that Mexico will play Chile on Sept. 6 at Levi's, the first of many major international soccer events the stadium hopes to hold.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.