When people think of Seattle, Washington, they think about the space needle, the famous fish market, and its close proximity to Canada. When they think of sports teams in Seattle, they think of the Seahawks, the Mariners, and the long gone Supersonics. But what most miss is the magic that the Seattle Sounders bring to the Emerald City. Although they are dubbed an expansion team by Major League Soccer, the Seattle Sounders aren’t new to Seattle.
How is this possible, you may ask? Because the team actually came into existence in the year 1974 as a member of the North American Soccer League (NASL), a league that no longer exists. The city’s love for the team was not enough to keep it around, and the club shut down operations in 1983. When Major League Soccer announced the first seven cities it would award a team too in 1994, Seattle was not included on the list. Searching for answers, Seattle’s soccer fans were told that they were not given a Major League Soccer team because of the lack of a soccer-specific pitch in the area.
The city would continue to be shunned by the MLS until 2007, when Adrian Hanauer teamed up with Hollywood stud Joe Roth to make a bid for MLS expansion. Paul Allen, co-founder of Seattle-based Microsoft, joined the ownership group that same year, raising hopes that this would finally be the city’s time to join into the MLS world. On November 13, 2007, it was announced that Seattle had been granted its long awaited soccer team. Matches would be played at the home of the Seahawks, then known as Qwest Field. The fans voted to officially name their team “Seattle Sounders FC,” and on May 28, 2008, the first jerseys and a sponsorship with Microsoft were announced.
The Seattle Sounders played their first home game on March 19, 2009 and gave a crowd of 32,523 exactly what they had deserved, a 3-0 romping over the New York Red Bulls. The Sounders went on to become only the second MLS expansion team to play their way into the playoffs in their first season. A 3rd place finish in the West was backed by an appearance in the conference semi-finals and a US Open Cup trophy.
The 2010 season began with a roar for the Sounders, who defeated the Philadelphia Union with the score of 2-0. Their good fortunes quickly changed and they would go on to lose eight of their next fourteen matches. The fans proved to be a powerful 12th man on the field and the Sounders surged into the playoffs by defying odds and winning ten of their final fifteen matches. They were eliminated in the conference semifinals by the Los Angeles Galaxy, but not before setting a single-season attendance record, averaging 36,173 fans per match.
The following season brought a familiar atmosphere to CenturyLink Field. Fans wearing their Sounder Blue and Rave Green shirts poured into the stadium as the Sounders began 2011 by hosting the opening match of the MLS season. They would continue to do so all season long as the Sounders overall record for the season ended in eighteen wins, nine draws, seven losses, and a late playoff exit in the Western Conference Semifinal against the skilled Real Salt Lake. Once again, the fans showed their unwavering support, averaging a whopping 38,496 per match.
Last season signaled a record of 15-8-11. Even while racking up a total of 56 points, the Sounders were two points shy of the third-highest point total in the league, while finishing second-best in defense and fifth-best in offense. Most teams would love those stats, but another exit from the playoffs without the MLS Cup left the Sounders fan base disappointed and hungry for personnel changes.
Currently, the Seattle Sounders are tied for first place in the Western Conference with 51 points and have just recently made the league’s biggest transaction in acquiring Clint Dempsey. They lead the league in attendance, averaging 43,180 a match, and while nobody can be sure of how the rest of the season will unravel, it is certain that this franchise will continue to grow and become a staple of the city of Seattle within a matter of years.
Written by Daniel Fortenko