The Seattle Sounders’ CONCACAF Champions League Victory, and the City’s Legacy as a Certified Sports Town

With their victory over Pumas UNAM in the CONCACAF Champions League final, the Seattle Sounders once again showed why they are one of — if not the — premier franchises in MLS. But the victory goes beyond that, and only adds to the lore of one of the country’s most vibrant (and overlooked) sports cities. 

The Seattle Sounders are a good club — this doesn’t really need much defending. There’s been a lot written about the first MLS club to win the modern structure of the CONCACAF Champions League, whether it’s what it does on the field or in the front office to build the roster and culture it has.

However, I want to talk about some other aspects of the club and hopefully provide a little insight into what really makes this CCL win cool for American soccer.

Seattle won this with Seattle people in charge. Club president Adrian Hanauer is from Seattle, and his ownership days go back to when the club was still in the USL. Tom Dutra has been the only Sounders goalkeeper coach in their MLS existence, and he was hired from a local youth club. Brian Shmetzer, while the head coach of the USL side, was also the president of a youth club in Seattle.

When we joined MLS, it wasn’t a billionaire bringing people into our club — it was taking the people we have and looking in our backyard. We have two owners that are not from Seattle, and one was recently bought out by Macklemore, Russell Wilson, and other members of the Seattle community.

The other one is comedian Drew Carey, who famously followed the United States men’s national team through World Cup qualifying, and we’ll give him a pass for not being local. Even on the field we’ve had a bevy of local players. Before Jordan Morris and Deandre Yedlin, there was Lamar Neagle.

Currently, the club rosters a handful of teenagers from its academy, but there’s also 30-year-old Kelyn Rowe, a local kid from Crossfire Premier who came back and won his first professional trophy with the CCL. A lot of players from the Sounders’ early days in the ’70s and ’80s are youth coaches across Western Washington at the top clubs outside the Sounders Academy as well. Since 1994, the Sounders have only called two stadiums home, and the switch to their current stadium happened six years before the jump to MLS. The club has always been in Seattle, not the outskirts, both physically and emotionally.

With the lead up to the CCL final, there were two videos put out by the club that perfectly exemplify what I’m talking about. Neither really have soccer highlights and they are voiced by people who don’t play soccer nor participate in the sport. They’re not even from Seattle, yet they are Seattle to their cores nonetheless.

Marshawn Lynch could run for mayor if he wanted, and when he tells you it’s a big fucking game, you better listen. The other video features epic voiceover from Ken Griffey Jr., paired with highlights from some of the most iconic moments in Seattle sports history.

These are titans of their sport, all-time greats — but to us, it’s the kid we saw grow up in the Kingdome scaling outfield walls with the sweetest swing in baseball, and the larger-than-life figure who was just there so he wouldn’t get fined. They’re just as Seattle as the Sounders, and seeing them get up and hyped for an MLS team is one of the reasons we’re here, winning a continental title with only three Designated Players and litany of other roster regulations.

This is different than either New York City club winning the CCL. This was an American front office with an American coach taking on the region. No billionaire funding with prestigious sister clubs’ worth of knowledge and expertise. Believe in your own and promote up, won. I know the Club World Cup is meaningless in the grand scheme of things until its new format comes out, but for the first time ever, an American squad will have a chance to show the rest of the world what we’re made of. It’s a win for the whole American community.

The last time an American team won a continental trophy (the LA Galaxy in 2000), the Club World Cup was cancelled, and the time before that (DC United in 1998) it didn’t even exist yet. It’s not about going there and winning (even though it kinda is), it’s about going there and planting a flag. This is what American soccer looks, acts, and plays like. At a time when we are still figuring out what “American soccer” means, it’s these moments that help us figure it out, and we’re in pretty good hands with Shmetzer and the Sounders.

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