Seattle Sounders FC
|Full name||Seattle Sounders FC|
|Founded||November 13, 2007|
|Capacity||67,000 or 38,300[nb 1]|
|General Manager||Adrian Hanauer|
|Head Coach||Sigi Schmid|
|League||Major League Soccer|
|2014||Western Conference: 1st
Playoffs: Conference finals
|Website||Club home page|
Seattle Sounders FC is an American professional soccer club based in Seattle, Washington that competes in Major League Soccer (MLS). Sounders FC was established on November 13, 2007, as an MLS expansion team, making it the 15th team in the league. Fans chose the Sounders name through an online poll in 2008, making the Seattle Sounders FC the third Seattle soccer club to share the name.
The club's majority owner is Hollywood producer Joe Roth, and its minority owners are Adrian Hanauer, Paul Allen and Drew Carey. Two-time MLS Cup winner Sigi Schmid is the club's head coach. Sounders FC home matches are played at CenturyLink Field. 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 in the Cascadia Cup.
Sounders FC played its inaugural match on March 19, 2009, winning 3–0 over the New York Red Bulls. Seattle has set MLS records for average attendance, led the league in season ticket sales, and qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in each of its first five seasons. Sounders FC has led MLS attendance since their inaugural season, consistently drawing an average of 50-65% more than the next highest-drawing team in the league, LA Galaxy. The club's announced attendance average was 43,144 in 2012.
In 2009, Sounders FC became the second expansion club in MLS history to win the U.S. Open Cup, and in 2010 became the first ever MLS club to repeat as Open Cup champions. Sounders FC won a third consecutive Open Cup in 2011, defeating the Chicago Fire 2–0. In 2012, the Sounders went to their fourth consecutive Open Cup final, losing to Sporting Kansas City in a penalty shootout. In 2014, Seattle won their fourth U.S. Open Cup title, defeating the Philadelphia Union in extra time, 3–1, as well as winning the Supporters' Shield over the LA Galaxy to complete their double.
- 1 History
- 2 Stadium
- 3 Supporters
- 4 Rivalries
- 5 Ownership and team management
- 6 Broadcasting
- 7 Profitability and revenue
- 8 Players
- 9 Honors
- 10 Footnotes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
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. 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. However, despite the strong soccer fan base in Seattle, the absence of a soccer-only stadium was a drawback to establishing an MLS team. Cities seeking consideration for an inaugural MLS team were also expected to secure 10,000 assurances from fans for season tickets. By the June 3, 1994 deadline for MLS team bids, Seattle organizers had secured fewer than 1,500 such assurances. 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.
In a June 14, 1994 announcement, Seattle was not included among the first seven cities to be awarded an MLS team. 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. 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. In the end, Seattle was not among the cities chosen to establish a team during the first season of MLS.
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. Many of the state's voters supported the referendum to construct Seahawks Stadium because it was also expected to be a professional soccer venue. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
Team name, badge and colors unveiled
"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. The "FC" in the team moniker stands for Football Club, but the team name is officially "Seattle Sounders FC". 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.
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. 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. 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". 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."
Team ownership revealed the first Sounders FC jersey on May 28, 2008, and announced Microsoft as the team's sponsor in a five-year deal worth approximately $20 million. As part of the agreement, the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live brands appear on the front of Sounders FC jerseys and throughout the stadium.
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, giving them the most season ticket holders in MLS. 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. During the pre-match ceremonies, the first Golden Scarf was awarded to MLS Commissioner Don Garber. Seattle was the first MLS expansion team to win its first three matches, and they did so with a shutout in each. 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, a record which was later broken when they hosted Manchester United in front of 67,052 fans.
On September 2, 2009, Sounders FC 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. 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.
On October 17, 2009, Sounders FC became the second 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. 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. Its inaugural season came to an end in the 2009 MLS Cup Playoffs with a loss in the conference semifinals to the Houston Dynamo by a 1–0 aggregate score in a two-legged series. During the 2009 season, all 15 Sounders FC 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.
Before the first match of Sounders FC's second season, the club increased the number of season ticket holders to 32,000. The first match of the season was played at CenturyLink Field, with Seattle hosting a new MLS expansion team, the Philadelphia Union. Sounders FC 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. They finished the season with 14 wins, 10 losses, and 6 ties. In the playoffs, the Sounders were eliminated in the conference semifinals by the Los Angeles Galaxy on a 3–1 aggregate score. The club broke its own single-season attendance record, averaging 36,173 fans per match, and again sold out every league match.
Sounders FC 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. 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. The final was played in front of a U.S. Open Cup record crowd of 31,311, and the victory ensured Seattle's return to the Champions League in 2011.
Sounders FC began 2011 by hosting the opening match of the MLS season for the third straight year. The club hosted the Los Angeles Galaxy, and lost 1–0. 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. Despite setbacks and a slow start to the season (the club won just 3 of its first 10 matches), Sounders FC 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.
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.
In the MLS playoffs, Seattle lost its Western Conference semifinal series 3–2 on aggregate to Real Salt Lake. The club dug itself a hole by losing 3–0 in Salt Lake, and could only net two goals in the second leg at home.
Sounders FC midfielder Mauro Rosales was recognized by the league as the 2011 Newcomer of the Year. 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 attended the final regular season home match.
In the 2011–12 CONCACAF Champions League, the club finished second in its group and advanced to the knockout round, which was played starting in March 2012. 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.
2012 to the present
In 2013, Sounders FC completed the largest transfer deal ever in the history of MLS, paying $9 million to Tottenham Hotspur for Clint Dempsey, captain of the U.S. national team and considered one of the best American players to date. The Sounders agreed to pay Dempsey the fourth-largest salary to date in MLS, approximately $5 million per year until 2016. The transfer was made possible by the large revenue earned from Seattle's home attendance.
Seattle Sounders continued breaking the MLS attendance record for the forth and fifth consecutive year in 2012 and 2013 with the average crowd of 43,144 and 44,038 respectively
On October 25, 2014, in the final game of the 2014 season, the Sounders beat the LA Galaxy 2–0 to win their first Supporters Shield. Only then to lose to them in the conference finals of the playoffs on road goal difference. LA went on to win the 2014 MLS cup with a 2-1 win over the New England Revolution.
Seattle Sounders FC plays home matches at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, also home to the Seattle Seahawks. Sounders FC minority owner Paul Allen is also the owner of the Seahawks, who have a 30-year lease on CenturyLink Field. Because of this relationship, Sounders FC makes use of CenturyLink Field without paying rent. For Sounders FC matches, the pitch is called "The Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field" as part of the sponsorship deal with Microsoft.
CenturyLink Field is a 67,000-seat stadium designed for both American football and soccer. Sounders FC artificially limits 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, and some league matches. The team's original business plan expected only 12,000 tickets per game. Based on high initial demand, capacity for the stadium was limited to 24,500 for the beginning of the inaugural 2009 season. However, due to continued high demand, capacity has been increased multiple times, with it currently set at 38,500 for the 2012 season. 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. 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 Sounders FC currently plays on FieldTurf, CenturyLink Field has previously had temporary natural grass installed for international soccer events. In 2012, an updated FieldTurf surface was installed and certified by FIFA with a 2-star quality rating, the highest possible rating. If an MLS rule change requires natural grass playing surfaces, the field will be permanently replaced with natural grass.
The team's training facilities and offices are located at the Starfire Sports Complex in nearby Tukwila. Smaller than CenturyLink Field, Starfire is also used to host U.S. Open Cup matches. Sounders FC representatives have said they prefer the more intimate atmosphere for smaller cup matches.
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 FC 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. Drew Carey is the chairman of the Sounders FC Alliance.
Carey also requested that Sounders FC have their own marching band, the first of its kind in MLS. This led to the creation of the Sound Wave, a 53-member marching band consisting of brass and marching percussion. The band plays music from multiple genres, such as Latin, rock and pop, and sits on the north end of CenturyLink Field. 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.
Besides the Alliance, there are currently four recognized, independent supporters groups for Sounders FC. 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. Eastside Supporters is a group which can be found in section 150 which they call "The Pod". Gorilla FC is a Sounders FC supporters group that sits in the south end of CenturyLink Field in Sections 119 and 120. The North End Faithful sit in the north end of the stadium beneath the "Hawks Nest" in sections 100 and 144–152.
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. This geographic rivalry went on without Seattle for two years after 2009 saw the Sounders enter the MLS, and was restored to all three cities when the MLS expansion teams in Portland and Vancouver began play in the 2011 season.
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.
Ownership and team management
The ownership group of the club is composed of four investors. The majority owner is Hollywood producer Joe Roth, with minority owners Adrian Hanauer, former owner of the now defunct USL-1 team Seattle Sounders; Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers; and Drew Carey, comedian and game show host. Allen's partnership allowed for the team to share certain resources with the Seahawks. Over half of the Seahawks' full-time staff is shared with Sounders FC. The teams have merged ticket, marketing, and financial operations.
Sounders FC officially introduced Sigi Schmid as its first head coach on December 16, 2008. Schmid had previously led the Los Angeles Galaxy to an MLS Cup in 2002 and the Columbus Crew to an MLS Cup in 2008. Brian Schmetzer is the top assistant coach, and Tom Dutra is the goalkeeper coach. Retired MLS veteran defender Ezra Hendrickson joined the Sounders as an assistant coach in January 2009. Former MLS player and Everett, Washington native Chris Henderson was named technical director on January 24, 2009. Longtime Seattle Seahawks executive Gary Wright is the Senior Vice President of Business Operations.
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. Former Seahawks and Sounders FC CEO Tod Leiweke was recognized by the Puget Sound Business Journal as the newspaper's 2009 Executive of the Year. Gary Wright was named MLS Executive of the Year in 2009. In 2012, he was named Seattle Sports Star Executive of the Year.
Starting March 15, 2014-Seattle Sounders FC matches are televised locally in English on either Q13 FOX KCPQ or JOEtv KZJO, and nationally on NBC, NBC Sports Network, ESPN and Fox Soccer. English television and radio broadcasts are called by former BBC announcer Ross Fletcher, who does play-by-play, and former Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who does color commentary. Matches are televised in Spanish on THIS-TV (KOMO-TV 4.2) with Jaime Mendez and Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar calling the action. On radio, Sounders FC matches are aired in English on KIRO-FM and in Spanish on Ke Buena AM.
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. 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. In 2012, White was hired by NBC Sports Network to be the voice of their soccer coverage. That led to Fletcher being paired with Keller in the broadcast booth for the 2012 season.
Profitability and revenue
A 2013 study by Forbes ranked the Sounders number one in the league in terms of annual revenues ($48 million) and operating income ($18 million). Consequently, the Sounders were also ranked as the most valuable franchise ($175 million) in MLS — a 483% increase over the expansion fee it paid to join the league. The Sounders financial success is driven in large part by their high attendance figures.
Where a player has not declared an international allegiance, nation is determined by place of birth. Squad correct as of March 23, 2014.
- MLS Supporters' Shield
- Winners: 2014
- Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
- MLS Western Conference
- Winners (Regular Season): 2014
- Minor Cups
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