While some potential Major League Soccer expansion franchises are withdrawing their bids or receiving negative messages from league headquarters, the 2009 startup team Seattle Sounders FC is looking like one of the league's strongest clubs without having yet kicked a competitive ball. Not only is it set to become one of the best supported clubs in the league, Greg Bell reports, but the mood in the Northwest is that it can also qualify for the playoffs in its debut season.
Backed by sponsors such as Disney and Microsoft, the millions of Hollywood filmmaker Joe Roth and team co-owner and actor Drew Carey, and its co-founder Paul Allen, the confidence comes on the back of season ticket sales of 18,600, and a healthy working partnership with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. "It doesn't look like an expansion team," said Roth Wednesday after watching his team practice for the first time. Thanks to low overheads, such as free rental of the Seahawks' stadium, Roth said that the Sounders will turn a profit in 2009.
"Once a week," Roth said, "I wake up and say to myself, 'What would I have done without the Seahawks?' There's no way we would be where we are right now without them." Assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, coach of the Sounders' incarnation as a United Soccer Leagues team, asked rhetorically while standing inside the Seahawks' 225,000-square-foot headquarters, "How big is the difference? How big is this building? In 2002, we were at Memorial Stadium, a dilapidated high-school football stadium with rotten turf. Now in 2009 we're among Seahawks people, Microsoft people. It's fantastic. There's not one person I have met here at the Seahawks who's been like, 'Oh, it's soccer.'"
Coach Sigi Schmid calls it "definitely the best situation I have been in. We need to pay these people back as soon as possible. And the way you pay people back, the fans, and the owners and everybody else, is by getting wins." Roth points out that "... The trick is to play well enough and make it entertaining enough that we end up holding those fans."