Seattle Sounders FC

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Seattle Sounders FC
The Seattle Sounders FC crest, with the team's name on a banner stretched across a green and blue shield with the shape of the Space Needle in the center.
Full name Seattle Sounders FC
Nickname(s) Sounders
Founded November 13, 2007; 10 years ago (2007-11-13)
Stadium CenturyLink Field
Seattle, Washington
Ground Capacity 72,000 / 41,000[nb 1]
Owners Adrian Hanauer
Joe Roth
Paul Allen
Drew Carey
General manager Garth Lagerwey
Head Coach Brian Schmetzer
League Major League Soccer
2017 Western Conference: 2nd
Overall: 7th
Playoffs: Final
Website Club website
Current season

Seattle Sounders FC is an American professional soccer club based in Seattle, Washington. The Sounders compete as a member of the Western Conference of Major League Soccer (MLS). The club was established on November 13, 2007, and began play in 2009 as an MLS expansion team. The Sounders are a phoenix club, and the third Seattle soccer club to carry the Sounders name being part of a legacy which traces back to the original team of the NASL in 1974.

The club's majority owner is Adrian Hanauer, and its minority owners are Joe Roth, Paul Allen and Drew Carey. Former USL Sounders coach and assistant coach Brian Schmetzer took over as head coach in July 2016 after the departure of Sigi Schmid. The Sounders play their home league matches at CenturyLink Field, with a reduced capacity of 41,000 seats for most matches. Along with several organized groups, a 53-member marching band called 'Sound Wave' supports the club at each home match. Seattle competes with rival MLS clubs Portland and Vancouver for the Cascadia Cup.

The Sounders played its inaugural match on March 19, 2009, winning 3–0 over the New York Red Bulls. Seattle has been among the league's most successful teams, winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup four times, the Supporters' Shield in 2014, and the MLS Cup in 2016. The team has qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in each of its nine seasons and competed in the CONCACAF Champions League five times, advancing to the semifinal round once. The team set MLS records for average attendance during its first eight seasons, with an average crowd of 44,245 in 2015, and ranks second in the league behind Atlanta United FC. The Sounders once led MLS in season ticket sales and merchandise sales until the arrival of Atlanta United FC, and is ranked as one of the most valuable franchises in North America.

The team's players have included U.S. men's national soccer team captain Clint Dempsey, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua F.C. forward Obafemi Martins, striker Fredy Montero, and captain Osvaldo Alonso. The Sounders also operate a players' academy and lower division teams that have produced homegrown players, including forward Jordan Morris and current Newcastle United F.C. defender DeAndre Yedlin.

History

Even before the first cities in the United States were chosen to host Major League Soccer teams, Seattle was considered a viable location for a professional team.[2] In 1994, as the U.S. was preparing to host the FIFA World Cup, more than 30 cities were pursuing the rights to an MLS team, Seattle being among them.[3] However, despite the strong soccer fan base in Seattle, the absence of a soccer-only stadium was a drawback to establishing an MLS team.[4] Cities seeking consideration for an inaugural MLS team were also expected to secure 10,000 assurances from fans for season tickets.[3] By the June 3, 1994 deadline for MLS team bids, Seattle organizers had secured fewer than 1,500 such assurances.[5] These low numbers were a result of competition between the ticket campaign for the MLS expansion team and for the American Professional Soccer League (APSL) Sounders expansion team.[6]

In a June 14, 1994 announcement, Seattle was not included among the first seven cities to be awarded an MLS team.[2] Five more teams were to be announced later in the year, and to improve their chances this time, Seattle MLS organizers began working with the University of Washington to secure use of Husky Stadium as an interim stadium while they pursued the construction of a permanent soccer-specific facility.[7] In November 1994, the start of the first MLS season was postponed until 1996, and it was noted that the absence of an "adequate grass-field facility" in the area and the presence of the new APSL Seattle Sounders team had thwarted Seattle's MLS bid.[8] In the end, Seattle was not among the cities chosen to establish a team during the first season of MLS.[9]

In 1996, as Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen worked with the city to build a new football stadium for his team, the potential of an MLS expansion team that could be a co-tenant helped drive public support for the effort.[10] Many of the state's voters supported the referendum to construct Seahawks Stadium because it was also expected to be a professional soccer venue.[11] While the stadium problem was being resolved, a new issue emerged. By 2000, MLS was moving away from league-operated teams to investor-operated teams, so wealthy individuals would need to step forward for Seattle to obtain an MLS expansion team.[11]

In 2003, Seattle was again listed as a possibility for an MLS expansion team when the ten-team league announced plans to expand into new markets.[12] In 2004, MLS commissioner Don Garber indicated that Seattle had been "very close" to receiving the expansion team ultimately awarded to Salt Lake. Adrian Hanauer, then-owner of the United Soccer League's (USL) Sounders (formerly the APSL Sounders), was in discussions with MLS about an estimated payment of $1 million to secure rights to a Seattle franchise for 2006.[13] However, when Seattle was passed over again in 2006, Hanauer announced that he would not be able to secure an expansion team without the help of more investors willing to cover the increasing MLS franchise fees which had grown beyond $10 million.[14]

MLS expansion arrives

In 2007, Hanauer teamed up with Hollywood producer Joe Roth to make another bid for MLS expansion into Seattle, at a cost of $30 million.[15] Paul Allen, whose First and Goal company operated Qwest Field (now CenturyLink Field), joined the ownership group that same year, making the bid the most promising yet for Seattle.[16] During the first week of November 2007, rumors began to build that MLS would be announcing an expansion into Seattle the following week, and that the ownership group had taken on a fourth member, TV personality Drew Carey.[17] In a press conference on November 13, 2007, it was announced that Seattle had been awarded an expansion team. The announcement marked the return of top-level soccer to Seattle for the first time since the dissolution of its North American Soccer League (NASL) team in 1983. The announcement also meant that the Seattle Sounders of the USL First Division would play its final season the year before the new MLS franchise was formed.[18][19] "Seattle Sounders FC" was announced as the team name on April 7, 2008, along with the team logo, colors and badge design, in a presentation held at the Space Needle.[20] "FC", which in many club names stands for "Football Club", is in this case a pseudo-acronym, with the official team name "Seattle Sounders FC".

Inaugural season

Several players are standing together with one lifting a large trophy upward
Players celebrate after winning the 2009 U.S. Open Cup.

Seattle Sounders FC, the league's 15th team, began play in the 2009 season. All 22,000 season ticket packages offered by the club for its inaugural season were sold,[21] giving them the most season ticket holders in MLS.[22] The club played its first home match on March 19, 2009 in front of a sold-out crowd of 32,523, defeating the New York Red Bulls 3–0.[23] During the pre-match ceremonies, the first Golden Scarf was awarded to MLS Commissioner Don Garber.[24] Seattle was the first MLS expansion team to win its first three matches, and they did so with a shutout in each.[25] The club set a state record for attendance at a soccer match on August 5, 2009, when 66,848 attended a friendly match with FC Barcelona,[26] a record which was later broken when they hosted Manchester United in front of 67,052 fans.[27]

On September 2, 2009, the Sounders became the second MLS expansion team in league history (Chicago was the first) to win the U.S. Open Cup tournament in its first season.[28] They did so by defeating D.C. United 2–1 on the road at RFK Stadium. In winning the U.S. Open Cup tournament, they qualified for the preliminary round of the 2010–11 CONCACAF Champions League.[28]

On October 17, 2009, the Sounders became the third MLS expansion team in league history to qualify for the playoffs in its first season. They clinched a playoff berth with a come-from-behind victory over the Kansas City Wizards 3–2 at Kansas City.[29] Seattle finished the regular season with a record of 12 wins, 7 losses, and 11 draws. The club set a new MLS record for average attendance with 30,943 fans per match.[30] Its inaugural season came to an end in the 2009 MLS Cup Playoffs with a loss in the conference semi-finals to the Houston Dynamo by a 1–0 aggregate score in a two-legged series.[31] During the 2009 season, all 15 Sounders MLS regular season home matches, its home playoff match, and its four home U.S. Open Cup matches (played at Starfire Sports Complex) were sold out.[32]

Early years (2010–2013)

Before the first match of the Sounders' second season, the club increased the number of season ticket holders to 32,000.[33] The first match of the season was played at CenturyLink Field, with Seattle hosting a new MLS expansion team, the Philadelphia Union. The Sounders won 2–0 on goals from Brad Evans and Fredy Montero. However, Seattle followed the win by losing 8 of its next 14 matches. In the latter half of the regular season, Seattle reversed its fortune. The team won 10 of its last 15 matches, and clinched a playoff berth for the second consecutive year with a 2–1 win on October 10, 2010 at Kansas City.[34] They finished the season with 14 wins, 10 losses, and 6 ties. In the playoffs, the Sounders were eliminated in the conference semi-finals by the Los Angeles Galaxy on a 3–1 aggregate score.[35] The club broke its own single-season attendance record, averaging 36,173 fans per match,[36] and again sold out every league match.[37]

The Sounders also competed in two additional competitions during the 2010 season – the CONCACAF Champions League and the U.S. Open Cup. In the Champions League, Seattle progressed through the preliminary round, beating Isidro Metapán 2–1 on aggregate, but was eliminated in the group stage.[38] In the U.S. Open Cup, Seattle won matches at Portland and at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA before reaching the final, which they hosted at CenturyLink Field against the Columbus Crew. On October 5, 2010, Seattle won the U.S. Open Cup final, 2–1, becoming the first team since 1983 to repeat as U.S. Open Cup champions.[39] The final was played in front of a U.S. Open Cup record crowd of 31,311,[40] and the victory ensured Seattle's return to the Champions League in 2011.[41]

Several players are standing together with three trophies on the ground in front of them
Sounders FC players with the 2009, 2010, and 2011 U.S. Open Cup trophies.

The Sounders began the 2011 season by hosting the opening match of the MLS season for the third straight year, losing 1–0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy.[42][43] The season also saw the entrance of the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps into MLS, allowing for the revival of the Cascadia Cup;[44] the Sounders won the cup with an unbeaten record against both clubs.[45] On April 22, 2011, in a match against the Colorado Rapids, Seattle's star midfielder Steve Zakuani suffered a broken leg in a challenge by the Rapids' Brian Mullan, which ended his season.[46] Despite setbacks and a slow start to the season (the club won just 3 of its first 10 matches), the Sounders went on to finish the season with the second-best record in the league at 18 wins, 9 draws, 7 losses, and qualified for the playoffs for a third consecutive year.[47] On October 4, 2011, Seattle won its third consecutive U.S. Open Cup, becoming the first club to do so in 42 years, as they defeated the Chicago Fire 2–0 in front of another tournament record crowd of 35,615 at CenturyLink Field.[48] In the MLS playoffs, Seattle lost its Western Conference semi-final series 3–2 on aggregate to Real Salt Lake. The club lost the first leg 3–0 in Salt Lake, and could only net two goals in the second leg at home.[49]

Sounders midfielder Mauro Rosales was recognized by the league as the 2011 Newcomer of the Year.[50] In 2011, Seattle again broke its own league record for average attendance at 38,496. On October 15, 2011, the club hosted the third-largest crowd ever for a single MLS match, as 64,140 people attended the final regular season home match against the San Jose Earthquakes, billed as a sendoff for goalkeeper Kasey Keller.[51] In the 2011–12 CONCACAF Champions League, the club finished second in its group and advanced to the quarterfinals, where they lost 7–3 on aggregate to eventual runners-up Santos Laguna.[52][53] In Champions League group play, Seattle became only the second MLS team in history to win a competitive match in Mexico, defeating CF Monterrey 1–0 on August 23, 2011.[54] The team went on to lose 7–3 on aggregate to Mexican club Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals, taking a 2–1 lead at home and losing 6–1 in Mexico.[55]

Seattle opened the 2012 season with a run of five straight wins in April and May,[56] but fell into a month-long, nine-match winless streak in June. The winless streak ended in a match on July 7, which saw the return of Steve Zakuani from rehabilitation, against the Colorado Rapids.[57] Seattle reached the U.S. Open Cup Final for the fourth consecutive year, becoming the first team to do so since 1937,[58] but lost to Sporting Kansas City in a penalty shootout after a 1–1 draw.[59] In Champions League group play, the team advanced to the knockout round with four straight wins, each including a goal from Sammy Ochoa.[60] The Sounders finished third in the Western Conference and qualified for the playoffs, where they advanced out of the first round for the first time in the team's history.[61] In the Conference Championship, Seattle fell 3–0 to Los Angeles in the first leg and came within one goal of tying the series on aggregate before letting an away goal, winning the second leg 2–1 but losing 4–2 on aggregate.[62] The 2012 season ended without a major trophy for the Sounders, for the first time in their MLS history, and the team failed to qualify for the 2013–14 CONCACAF Champions League.[63] The top scorer in league play was 28-year-old striker Eddie Johnson, who scored 14 goals in his first season with the club; he earned Comeback Player of the Year honors for his performance, which came after unsuccessful loans to European clubs.[64]

During the 2013 preseason, the Sounders signed their first homegrown player, right back DeAndre Yedlin,[65] veteran defender Djimi Traoré,[66] and forward Obafemi Martins, who bought his release clause from his Spanish club.[67] Longtime forward Fredy Montero left Seattle on loan to Colombian club Millonarios F.C. in January and,[68] by July, was loaned to Sporting CP in Portugal with an option to buy; Montero was sold permanently to Sporting in 2014.[69] The Sounders began the 2013 season with the knockout round of the 2012–13 Champions League, facing Mexican club Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals. After losing 1–0 in the away leg and conceding an away goal in the return leg, the Sounders scored three unanswered goals in the second half to win 3–1 and advance to the semifinals. With the win, the Sounders became the first MLS team to eliminate a Mexican team in the knockout stage of CONCACAF Champions League.[70] Seattle once again played Santos Laguna in the semifinal, but failed to advance after losing 1–0 at home and drawing 1–1 in Torreón.[71]

The Sounders began the MLS season with a run of five matches without a win, the worst start in the team's history, due to injuries to key players.[72] The Sounders failed to advance in the U.S. Open Cup after losing to second-division Tampa Bay Rowdies in the third round, marking the end of the team's seven-year streak of appearances in the later rounds.[73] As players returned to the team, Seattle improved to a six-win, four-loss record in 14 matches by late June.[74] In August 2013, the Sounders completed the signing of U.S. national team captain Clint Dempsey from Tottenham Hotspur for $9 million, the largest transfer deal in the league's history, and a record salary of $32 million over four years.[75] The team's continued run of wins put them into Supporters' Shield contention in September, coming within one point of the league-leading Red Bulls,[76] but fell to fourth place in the conference after a run of four straight losses in October.[77][78] The Sounders beat the Colorado Rapids 2–0 in the knockout round, and drew rivals Portland in the conference semifinal.[79] Seattle fell 2–1 to the Timbers in the home leg and were defeated 3–2 in Portland, knocking the Sounders out in a performance that failed to live up to expectations.[80]

The Sounders continued to break the MLS average attendance record for the fourth and fifth consecutive year in 2012 and 2013, with an average of 43,144 and 44,038, respectively.[81] The higher attendances were helped by the opening of additional sections in the Hawks' Nest,[82] as well as the opening of the upper deck of CenturyLink Field for select regular matches.[83] The August 25, 2013, home match against the Portland Timbers drew a crowd of 67,385, the second-largest standalone attendance in league history.[84]

First Supporters Shield (2014)

After a disappointing 2013 season, the Sounders replaced starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning with Toronto's Stefan Frei. Several veteran players, including Eddie Johnson, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Mauro Rosales, and Steve Zakuani, left the club as part of a major restructure; Brad Evans was named as club captain.[85] Marco Pappa, an experienced MLS player and Guatemalan international, was added to the team. Homegrown player DeAndre Yedlin was transferred overseas to Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the season.[86]

The Sounders advanced to the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final and defeated the Philadelphia Union in extra time, to win their fourth trophy of the tournament. On October 25, 2014, the final game of the 2014 regular season, the Sounders defeated the LA Galaxy 2–0 to secure and win their first Supporters' Shield.[87]

Entering the playoffs as the top seed, Seattle defeated FC Dallas on the away goals rule and advanced to the Western Conference Championship to face the LA Galaxy once again. The Sounders lost on aggregate score and the away goals rule after losing 1–0 away and winning 2–1 at home. LA would go on to win the MLS Cup.[88]

2015 season

Former Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey was hired by the club in January 2015, replacing Adrian Hanauer.[89]

Seattle was unable to repeat their successes in the 2014 season. The season started successfully, with several key wins that saw the team at the top of the Western Conference by June.[90] During a 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against the Portland Timbers on June 16, however, Obafemi Martins left the game with a groin injury and Clint Dempsey was suspended after tearing a referee's pocketbook, though he would be called away for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.[91][92]

The injury and suspension of the team's main attacking duo led to a death spiral during the summer, with Seattle winning only one match in nine games. By late August, Martins had recovered and led the team to an 8-match unbeaten streak to secure a playoff spot, finishing 4th in the Western Conference. The Sounders had also successfully topped their group in the 2015–16 CONCACAF Champions League, beating the Vancouver Whitecaps and Club Deportivo Olimpia, with two wins, one draw, and one loss.[93] Paraguayan international Nelson Haedo Valdez was signed as the club's newest designated player, and was joined by fellow international signings Andreas Ivanschitz and Román Torres in August 2015;[94] Erik Friberg also returned to the club after his stint in Europe.[95]

During the playoff's opening knockout round, the Sounders defeated the LA Galaxy 3–2, ending a "curse" for the club, who had lost to LA in each of the three previous playoff matchups.[96] The playoff run would end in the next round, the Western Conference semi-finals against FC Dallas, during a penalty shootout after both teams were tied on aggregate score after extra time in Frisco, Texas.[97][98]

In November 2015, Adrian Hanauer was made majority owner of the club, succeeding Joe Roth.[99] The club set a new attendance record during the 2015 season, with an average attendance of 44,247.[100]

Consecutive MLS Cup appearances (2016–2017)

Prior to the 2016 season, Obafemi Martins abruptly left the club to sign with Shanghai Greenland Shenhua F.C. in the Chinese Super League,[101] a move that would hamper the Sounders' offense during the season. The move was mitigated somewhat by the signing of homegrown product Jordan Morris.[102] GM Lagerwey also traded Marco Pappa and Lamar Neagle to other clubs in the offseason.[103]

During the first half of the 2016 season, the Sounders failed to meet expectations, placing near the bottom of the league with 6 wins, 12 losses, and 2 draws. After a 3–0 loss on July 24 to Sporting Kansas City, in which the Sounders had only one shot,[104] Schmid left the club on mutual terms.[105] Long-time assistant coach Brian Schmetzer was promoted to interim head coach.[106] The same day, the club announced their signing of Uruguayan midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro on a designated player contract,[107] as well as the return of former designated player Álvaro Fernández.[108] Despite the sluggish start as well as the loss of midfielder Clint Dempsey, who was forced in August to stop playing after evaluations for an irregular heartbeat,[109] the Sounders rose from 9th place to 4th place in the Western Conference and qualified for the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, with eight wins, two losses, and four draws. Schmetzer was named as permanent head coach as a result.[110]

At the end of the regular season, Jordan Morris was named the MLS Rookie of the Year after scoring the most goals of any American rookie in MLS (12),[111] and Nicolás Lodeiro was named MLS Newcomer of the Year for his 4 goals and 8 assists in 13 appearances.[112] The Sounders advanced from the Knockout Round of the playoffs through a 1–0 win over Sporting Kansas City, and beat FC Dallas 4–2 on aggregate to return to the Conference Final.[113][114] The Sounders then defeated the Colorado Rapids 3–1 on aggregate in the final, clinching a spot in their first-ever MLS Cup.[115] On December 10, 2016, the Sounders defeated Toronto FC 5–4 in a penalty shootout, to win MLS Cup 2016, their first MLS championship in franchise history, going the whole match without a shot on goal.[116] The team's performance was called a "cinderella season" and hailed as one of the most dramatic MLS seasons to date.[117]

The Sounders began their title defense with the signings of two academy graduates and several veteran players from MLS and abroad.[118] Dempsey also returned from his hiatus and scored in his first match before being called up to the U.S. national team for World Cup qualification.[119] The season began with only five wins in the first 17 matches, but was followed by a 13-match unbeaten streak and additional wins to clinch a second-place spot in the Western Conference.[120][121][122] In the playoffs, the Sounders beat the Vancouver Whitecaps and Houston Dynamo to win the Western Conference and return to the MLS Cup, once again facing Toronto at BMO Field.[123] Seattle lost 2–0 to Toronto, who clinched the first domestic treble in MLS history.[124]

Team colors and crest

The badge design resembles a heraldic shield, and consists of two layers which represent "the partnership between the ownership, the community, the players and the fans." The logo incorporates the Space Needle, an internationally recognized Seattle landmark. The official team colors are Sounder Blue, signifying the waters of the Puget Sound; Rave Green, representing the forests of the Pacific Northwest; and Cascade Shale, representing the Cascade Range to the east of Seattle.[125] Fans chose a name for the team in an online poll held between March 27 and 31, 2008. The initial list of possibilities – Seattle FC, Seattle Republic and Seattle Alliance – deliberately did not include Seattle Sounders in order to provide a "fresh start." Despite the names having been selected through fan research and internal committees, the omission of the traditional Sounders name embittered many in the Seattle community.[126][127] In response to the backlash, the team added a fourth "write-in" option for the team name, allowing for any name to be suggested on the ballot.[128] Of the more than 14,500 votes received in choosing the new team name, 49% of the votes included some form of the name "Sounders".[129] Upon announcing the name of the club, Hanauer acknowledged the significance of keeping with tradition: "The team playing at the highest level in our region has always been called Sounders. Starting with the NASL and then the USL 1st Division, we now have the chance to create a separate and distinct identity with the new MLS team."[130] (The naming of the original Seattle Sounders (NASL) team was, in fact, as the result of a "name the team" contest in 1974, in which the top three picks were Sounders, Seahawks and Mariners, in that order.)

Sponsorship

Team ownership revealed the first Sounders jersey on May 28, 2008, and announced Microsoft as the team's sponsor in a five-year deal worth approximately $20 million.[131] As part of the agreement, Xbox branding appeared on the front of the Sounders' jerseys and throughout the stadium, beginning with the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live and later replaced with the Xbox One (simply shown as "XBOX").[132]

In 2012, the club hired a consultant to explore other jersey partnerships,[133] but ultimately added a one-year extension to its Microsoft sponsorship deal in September 2013 to last through the 2014 season.[134] A second extension signed in December 2014, lasting through the end of the 2016 season;[135] the extension came amid rumors that Emirates was interested in a sponsorship as part of their marketing campaign in Seattle.[136]

Stadium

A view of a soccer field from high in the crowd before a match.
Supporters in the lower bowl of CenturyLink Field

Seattle Sounders FC plays home matches at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, also home to the Seattle Seahawks.[137][138] Sounders minority owner Paul Allen is also the owner of the Seahawks, who have a 30-year lease on CenturyLink Field.[139] Because of this relationship, the Sounders makes use of CenturyLink Field without paying rent.[140] For Sounders matches, the field is called "The Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field" as part of the sponsorship deal with Microsoft.[141]

CenturyLink Field is a 69,000-seat stadium designed for both teams.[138] The Sounders artificially limit the stadium's capacity for MLS matches, with certain seating sections covered with tarpaulins to provide "a more intimate atmosphere." However, the club does open the entire stadium for international friendly matches,[137][142] and some league matches.[143] The team's original business plan expected only 12,000 tickets per game.[144] Based on high initial demand, capacity for the stadium was limited to 24,500 for the beginning of the inaugural 2009 season.[137] However, due to continued high demand, capacity has been increased multiple times, to 38,500 for the 2012 season[142][145][146][147] and to 39,115 for 2015 season.[148] On October 7, 2012, a record was established when a crowd of 66,452 attended a Sounders 3–0 win over the rival Portland Timbers: the second-highest to-date in MLS.[149] The Sounders then beat their own record on August 25, 2013 again against the Timbers with 67,385 in attendance for Clint Dempsey's home debut, a 1–0 win for the Sounders.

While the Sounders currently play on FieldTurf, CenturyLink Field has previously had temporary natural grass installed for international soccer events.[150][151] In 2012, an updated FieldTurf surface was installed and certified by FIFA with a 2-star quality rating, the highest possible rating.[152] If an MLS rule change requires natural grass playing surfaces, the field will be permanently replaced with natural grass.[153]

The team's training facilities and offices are located at the Starfire Sports Complex in nearby Tukwila.[154] Smaller than CenturyLink Field, Starfire is also used to host U.S. Open Cup matches. Sounders representatives have said they prefer the more intimate atmosphere for smaller cup matches.[155]

Supporters

Fans waving flags and unfurling a large green and blue tifo behind a goal.
Emerald City Supporters unveil a tifo prior to the club's inaugural match.

The Sounders FC Alliance was established at the request of minority owner Drew Carey. Based on the fan association at FC Barcelona, members of the Alliance have the ability to vote on the removal of the general manager and on other team decisions. Season ticket holders become automatic members, while non-season ticket holders may buy into the Alliance for a fee. Membership benefits include voting privileges, an invitation to the annual meeting and other team perks. Members may also be elected to the Sounders FC Alliance Council by receiving at least 25 nominations from other members on an annual basis. The first vote on retaining or replacing Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer was scheduled to be held between October to December 2012. After 13,775 votes registered, Hanauer was retained by the Alliance.[156] Drew Carey is the chairman of the Sounders FC Alliance.[157]

Carey also requested that the Sounders have their own marching band, the first of its kind in MLS.[158] This led to the creation of the Sound Wave, a 53-member marching band consisting of brass and marching percussion.[159] The band plays music from multiple genres, such as Latin, rock and pop,[159] and sits on the north end of CenturyLink Field.[160] The March to the Match, in which fans march from Occidental Park to CenturyLink Field before each home match, has been accompanied by the Sound Wave.[161]

Besides the Alliance, there are currently four recognized, independent supporters groups for the Sounders. Emerald City Supporters (ECS), which formed in 2005 to support the USL Sounders, is the largest supporter group and sits in the south end of the stadium in sections 121–123.[162] Eastside Supporters is a group which can be found in section 150 which they call "The Pod". Gorilla FC is a Sounders supporters group that sits in the south end of CenturyLink Field in Sections 119 and 120.[163] The North End Faithful sit in the north end of the stadium beneath the "Hawks Nest" in sections 100 and 144–152.[164]

Rivalries

In most sports, Seattle typically finds their main rivals located within the states of Oregon and California, as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia. This is no different in soccer, with most Sounders fans claiming four rivalries across the west coast.

The Seattle–Portland and Seattle–Vancouver rivalries formed in the years that the NASL-Sounders and USL-Sounders were playing in Seattle. In 2004, the fan-based Cascadia Cup was created to formalize the competition between the Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver USL teams.[165] This geographic rivalry went on without Seattle for two years after 2009 saw the Sounders enter MLS, and was restored to all three cities when the MLS expansion teams in Portland and Vancouver began play in the 2011 season.[166][167]

The fan-created Heritage Cup competition with the San Jose Earthquakes began in the 2009 MLS season. MLS teams that carry on the names of their NASL predecessors are eligible to compete. The results of their league matches determine the winner.[168]

Although there is no official rivalry between the Sounders and Los Angeles Galaxy, the two teams have met several times in the MLS Cup Playoffs.[169] The relationship between former head coaches Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid, the two most successful in league history, also played a factor in the clubs' rivalry.[170] In 2017, months after his release from the Sounders, Schmid became the new head coach of the Galaxy which rekindled the tension between the two clubs.

Ownership and team management

The ownership group of the club is composed of four investors. The majority owner is the former owner of the now defunct USL-1 team Seattle Sounders Adrian Hanauer, with minority owners Joe Roth, a Hollywood producer; Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers; and Drew Carey, comedian and game show host.[171] Roth was the majority owner from 2007 to 2015, when he ceded the role to Hanauer, who had been replaced as general manager earlier that year.[172] Allen's partnership allowed for the team to share certain resources with the Seahawks, including over half of the team's full-time staff, with merged ticket, marketing, and financial operations.[144] This arrangement ended on April 30, 2014, with the Sounders becoming a fully independent business operation.[173]

Brian Schmetzer is the Sounders' head coach. He was promoted to interim head coach from his role as assistant coach after Sigi Schmid parted ways with the club on mutual terms in July 2016.[106] Schmid had been introduced as the first head coach of the team on December 16, 2008, after leaving the Columbus Crew following their MLS Cup victory.[174] The club's assistant coaches are Ante Razov, a retired MLS player,[175] and Djimi Traoré, a retired Sounders player who played for Liverpool F.C.[176] Tom Dutra was hired in 2008 as the club's goalkeeper coach.[177][178]

Garth Lagerwey was hired from Real Salt Lake in January 2015 as the club's general manager and President of Soccer, replacing Adrian Hanauer.[89] Former MLS player and Everett, Washington native Chris Henderson was named technical director on January 24, 2009.[179] Former Sounders defender Taylor Graham was hired as the club's Vice President of Business Operations in 2012,[180] replacing longtime Seattle Seahawks executive Gary Wright.[181]

SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily recognized Seattle Sounders FC as the Professional Sports Team of the Year in 2009 because of the team's record-setting success in attendance, as well as making the playoffs in its inaugural season.[182][183] Former Seahawks and Sounders CEO Tod Leiweke was recognized by the Puget Sound Business Journal as the newspaper's 2009 Executive of the Year.[184] Gary Wright was named MLS Executive of the Year in 2009.[185] In 2012, he was named Seattle Sports Star Executive of the Year.[186]

A 2015 study by Forbes ranked the Sounders number one in the league in terms of annual revenues ($50 million) and operating income ($10 million). Consequently, the Sounders were also ranked as the most valuable franchise ($245 million) in MLS – a 717% increase over the expansion fee it paid to join the league.[187] The Sounders financial success is driven in large part by their high attendance figures.[187]

Reserve and affiliated teams

The Sounders organization announced in 2014 that it would field a second-division reserve team in the United Soccer League, managed by the team and partially owned by members of a fan-owned group.[188] The team, named Seattle Sounders FC 2 (S2), began play at the Starfire Sports Complex in 2015, under the management of former assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson.[189] In 2017, the Sounders announced that the team would move to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, with business operations transferred to the Tacoma Rainiers baseball club, ahead of a planned rebrand and soccer-specific stadium to be built in 2020.[190][191]

The Sounders were also affiliated with an amateur women's team, Seattle Sounders Women, that plays at Starfire Sports Complex.[192] A separate, professional's women's team, the Seattle Reign, began play in 2013.[193]

Academy system

The Sounders established their affiliated academy team in 2010, and hired manager Dick McCormick and technical director Darren Sawatzky to develop local players.[194] The academy fields teams in four age levels in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy system,[195] and is affiliated with youth clubs in Washington, North Carolina, and Central California.[196][197] Several academy products have been signed by the Sounders under the MLS Homegrown Player Rule, including DeAndre Yedlin, Sean Okoli, Jordan Morris, and Henry Wingo.[198]

In January 2012, the Sounders announced a partnership with the Tacoma Tide, an amateur team in the USL Premier Development League, to rebrand as Seattle Sounders FC U-23 and appoint Sawatzky as head coach.[199] The U-23 team fields academy players signed from their university teams, as part of the player development system.[200]

Broadcasting

Since 2014, television rights in English for regionally-broadcast matches are held by Tribune Media, with games airing on either KCPQ or sister station KZJO within the Seattle market. English television broadcasts were called by Keith Costigan, who works alongside color commentator and former Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller.[201] Previously, matches aired on KING-TV and KONG. Matches are televised in Spanish on Univision station KUNS, with Jaime Mendez and analyst Diego Arrioja.[202] In 2018, the team renewed its agreements with KCPQ and KZJO. In addition, the team announced a new streaming deal with YouTube TV, under which the service will have exclusive rights to stream the team's matches within its region. This replaces a previous syndication deal with Root Sports Northwest.[203]

On radio, Sounders matches are called in English on KIRO-FM by Matt Johnson, and in Spanish on El Rey 1360 AM (KKMO) by Mario Rodriguez and Felipe Maqueda through the 2017 season.[204][205] Starting in 2018 the English broadcast will be on Sports Radio 950 KJR AM.[206]

Former Seattle SuperSonics announcer Kevin Calabro and former U.S. soccer star Greg Vanney called the play-by-play for the local broadcasts during the Sounders' inaugural season in 2009.[207][208] However, they were replaced by former BBC cricket and general sport commentator Arlo White for the 2010 and 2011 seasons, who called English language broadcasts without a partner.[209] In 2012, White was hired by NBC Sports Network to be the voice of their soccer coverage. That led to BBC commentator Ross Fletcher becoming the club's television and radio play-by-play commentator beginning with the 2012 season, working alongside Kasey Keller as the color commentator.[210] Fletcher left the club at the end of the 2015 season and was replaced by Keith Costigan.[211][212]

Players and staff

Current roster

Where a player has not declared an international allegiance, nation is determined by place of birth. Squad correct as of June 30, 2018.[213]

No. Position Player Nation
2 Forward Clint Dempsey (DP)  United States
4 Midfielder Gustav Svensson  Sweden
5 Defender Nouhou Tolo  Cameroon
6 Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso  Cuba
7 Midfielder Cristian Roldan  United States
8 Midfielder Víctor Rodríguez  Spain
9 Forward Raúl Ruidíaz (DP)  Peru
10 Midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro (DP)  Uruguay
13 Forward Jordan Morris (HGP)  United States
14 Defender Chad Marshall  United States
15 Defender Tony Alfaro  Mexico
16 Midfielder Alex Roldan  United States
17 Forward Will Bruin  United States
18 Defender Kelvin Leerdam  Netherlands
19 Midfielder Harry Shipp (HGP)  United States
20 Defender Kee-hee Kim  South Korea
21 Midfielder Jordy Delem  Martinique
23 Midfielder Henry Wingo (HGP)  United States
24 Goalkeeper Stefan Frei   Switzerland
25 Goalkeeper Calle Brown  United States
27 Forward Lamar Neagle  United States
29 Defender Román Torres  Panama
30 Defender Jordan McCrary  United States
35 Goalkeeper Bryan Meredith  United States
63 Goalkeeper Zac Lubin (on loan from Phoenix Rising FC)  United States
70 Midfielder Handwalla Bwana (HGP)  Kenya
90 Defender Waylon Francis  Costa Rica

Out on loan

Where a player has not declared an international allegiance, nation is determined by place of birth. Squad correct as of January 12, 2018.

No. Position Player Nation
11 Midfielder Aaron Kovar (HGP; on loan to Los Angeles FC)  United States
99 Forward Felix Chenkam (on loan to Seattle Sounders FC 2)  Cameroon

Head coaches

Name Nat Tenure
Sigi Schmid  Germany December 16, 2008 – July 26, 2016
Brian Schmetzer  United States July 26, 2016 – November 1, 2016 (interim)
November 2, 2016 – present

General managers

Name Nat Tenure
Adrian Hanauer  United States 2007–2015
Garth Lagerwey  United States 2015–present

Staff

As of January 12, 2018[178][214]
Executive
Majority owner Adrian Hanauer
Minority owners Joe Roth, Paul Allen, Drew Carey
Chief executive officer Bart Wiley
General manager Garth Lagerwey
Coaching staff
Head coach Brian Schmetzer
Assistant coach Gonzalo Pineda
Assistant coach Preki
Assistant coach Djimi Traoré
Goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra

Honors

The team's first three Open Cup trophies (2009, 2010, 2011)
Continental
Competitions Titles Seasons
National
Competitions Titles Seasons
MLS Cup 1 2016
Supporters' Shield 1 2014
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup 4 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014
Western Conference 2 2016, 2017
Western Conference (Regular Season) 1 2016

Records

Interactive chart

Major League Soccer Season Records

Year-by-year

Year MLS Regular season Position MLS Cup
Playoffs
U.S.
Open Cup
Champions
League
Additional
Honors
P W L T GF GA Pts Conf. Overall
2009 30 12 7 11 38 29 47 3rd 4th Conference Semi-finals Champions DNQ N/A
2010 30 14 10 6 39 35 48 4th 6th Conference Semi-finals Champions Group stage Heritage Cup
2011 34 18 7 9 56 37 63 2nd 2nd Conference Semi-finals Champions Quarter-finals Cascadia Cup
Heritage Cup
2012 34 15 8 11 51 33 56 3rd 7th Conference Finals Runners-up Semi-finals N/A
2013 34 15 12 7 42 42 52 4th 6th Conference Semi-finals 3R DNQ Heritage Cup
2014 34 20 10 4 65 50 64 1st 1st Conference Finals Champions DNQ N/A
2015 34 15 13 6 44 36 51 4th 6th Conference Semi-finals 4R Quarter-finals Cascadia Cup
2016 34 14 14 6 44 43 48 4th 7th Champions Quarter-finals DNQ Heritage Cup
2017 34 14 9 11 52 39 53 2nd 7th Runners-up 5R Not held Heritage Cup

All-time top 11 goalscorers

As of December 10, 2017[215]
Leading career goal scorers
# Name Career Total dagger Pre­season double-dagger MLS regular
season
MLS Cup
playoffs
U.S. Open
Cup
Champions
League
1 Colombia Fredy Montero 2009–2014 60 21 47 0 7 6
2 United States Clint Dempsey 2013– 55 3 46 6 1 2
3 Nigeria Obafemi Martins 2013–2016 43 5 40 0 3 0
4 United States Lamar Neagle 2009, 2011
2013–2015
2017–
33 6 28 1 1 3
5 United States Eddie Johnson 2012–2013 29 2 23 3 1 2
6 United States Brad Evans 2009–2017 28 5 20 2 2 4
7 Cuba Osvaldo Alonso 2009– 20 0 10 3 5 2
8 Democratic Republic of the Congo Steve Zakuani 2009–2013 19 0 17 1 0 1
9 United States Nate Jaqua 2009–2011 18 5 9 0 7 2
10 Uruguay Álvaro Fernández 2010–2012
2016–2017
18 0 14 0 0 4
11 United States Jordan Morris 2016– 17 1 15 2 0 0

Bold signifies a current Sounders player

daggerIncludes MLS regular season goals, MLS Cup playoff goals, U.S. Open Cup goals, and CONCACAF Champions League goals.

double-daggerNot counted toward total goals.

Leading scorers by season

Year
Player Total goalsdagger Preaseaon goalsdouble-dagger MLS regular season goals MLS Cup playoff goals U.S. Open Cup goalsdouble-dagger Champions League goalsdouble-dagger
2009 Colombia Fredy Montero 12 10 12 0 1 0
2010 Democratic Republic of the Congo Steve Zakuani 11 1 10 1 0 0
2011 Colombia Fredy Montero 12 0 12 0 1 3
2012 United States Eddie Johnson 15 2 14 1 1 1
2013 United States Eddie Johnson 11 1 9 2 0 1
2014 Nigeria Obafemi Martins 17 0 17 0 0 0
2015 Nigeria Obafemi Martins 15 0 15 0 0 0
2016 United States Jordan Morris 14 1 12 2 0 0
2017 United States Clint Dempsey 15 0 12 3 0 0

Bold signifies current a Sounders player

daggerIncludes MLS regular season goals, MLS Cup playoff goals

double-daggerNot counted toward total goals.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Expandable to 72,000.[1]

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External links

  • Official website

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