The Sounders have been present in the Seattle sports landscape for decades. Before our beloved Mariners and Seahawks, fans would crowd into Memorial Stadium and the Kingdome to see the Blue and Green play the world’s game as a member of the North American Soccer League, stretching from the mid 70s to 80s. Over the ten-year period in the league, the franchise averaged 18,307 people in attendance. That number today would rank sixth in the MLS. There even was a 58,218-person turnout to christen the Kingdome when the Cosmos came to town. Seattle has always been a soccer town. The true spirit of Seattle fan-ship is displayed in the early years of the Sounders. Soccer was practically an unknown in America at the time and the Emerald City welcomed it with open arms, just as it has done with every other sports team that has made it’s way here. Through the years our city has seen the Sounders come and go, but everything changed in 2009.
After years of dominance in the United Soccer League, the Sounders had the privilege of joining the MLS. It quickly became the hottest ticket in town, selling all 22,000 season ticket packages in their inaugural season, which was the most in the league. Also that year, the organization set an MLS attendance record of 30,943 fans per game. Every game that year was a sell out. On top of this incredible buzz, the new expansion team was actually quite good, making it to the conference semifinals in the MLS playoffs. From then until now not much has changed. The squad is one of the best in the league and the newly named Century-Link Field regularly houses 36,000 of the most spirited soccer fans in the country. But the real beauty of the franchise isn’t just the large crowds or quality style of play; it’s what happens behind the scenes. It’s the people who are in charge of piecing together this goal scoring, ticket selling machine: the management.
Led by majority owner Joe Roth and minority owners Adrian Hanauer, Paul Allen, and Drew Carey, these men have developed a winning formula on the pitch and in the front office; something hard to come by in this city.
These four individuals have brought creativity and ingenuity to a team who is a member of a league that is straining to catch up to its counterparts abroad. One of the most unique aspects about the Sounders is its “Alliance,” which is composed of all season ticket holders and others who are willing to pay a small fee. What the “Alliance” brings is the ability for the fans to have a voice. To let management know when they are happy or upset with the product that is being put on the field. Every four years the organization puts power into the hands of its supporters, allowing them to vote on whether to retain or get rid of the current general manager. This system has been very successful at soccer giants around the globe, including Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona. The Sounders are hoping for the same results. As for the general manager who will sweat it out when November 2012 rolls around, I don’t think he has much to worry about.