Coming out of the November 13 press conference, we had a pretty good idea that we were going to have a very good week selling season tickets. This gave us lots of confidence heading to our first MLS Cup as MLS owners.
I had always had great experiences with MLS owners, management, coaches, and players and I figured that this experience would be similar. I was really impressed with how welcoming everyone was into the MLS family.
A couple weeks earlier, just after returning from China, we had met with representatives of the L.A. Galaxy, Toronto FC and New England Revolution. Along with me, Joe (Roth), and (Seahawks COO) John Rizzardini were several other members of the Seahawks management team.
Over just 4-5 days, we were able to spend several hours visiting with each group, and we learned a ton. We also spent two days in the MLS offices, getting to know the team will be supporting us as we embark on this project.
L.A. was interesting because of the David Beckham signing and how that was affecting all aspects of their business. Toronto was high on our list of teams to visit because of their amazing success as an expansion franchise. They sold-out their stadium and connected with their fans in a way that we would like to emulate. And New England was particularly interesting to us because their operation is run similar to ours, with the Patriots front office helping with much of the business operations of the Revs.
I arrived in DC on Thursday evening and went to dinner with some of my friends from Real Madrid. It was great to catch up on what was happening with Los Galacticos and to try to get some inside information. They weren't giving up any good inside information but we had great conversations about European soccer and their impressions of MLS.
Joe and I connected on Friday morning for the MLS Board of Governors Meeting. This was an all-day affair, very interesting and informative. It was great to hear this group of amazing sports minds give their opinions on a variety of MLS subjects.
Of course every MLS owner wants his respective club to be MOST successful, but everyone also understands that this league is only as strong as it's weakest link. Therefore, everyone is extremely helpful and forthcoming with best practices, mistakes to avoid, and general encouragement.
Most of the people–whether owners, management or MLS officials–were already aware of our strong start on season ticket sales. They are all convinced that Seattle is going to be a great market, and because our city is beautiful, many are looking forward to visiting in 2009.
Friday evening was the Commissioner's Party which was quite a bash at a 4-story nightclub in downtown Washington, D.C. I spent a couple of hours catching up with old and new friends, and then called it a night.
Saturday was a bit of a free day. Hanging out in the hotel lobby and restaurant was all that was needed to spend the whole day having informal meetings. It seemed like we saw everyone possible: Players, coaches, agents, managers, scouts, owners, sponsors, league officials, U.S. Soccer representatives, and on and on. Lots of great opportunities to begin building relationships for the future!
Saturday night was the big awards banquet at a beautiful museum, a black tie optional event hosted by Victor McFarland and Will Chang, the owners of DC United. MVP, Newcomer of the Year, Coach of the Year, Best XI. All of these award presentations made me anxious to have a team on the pitch and have Seattle MLS players participating in winning awards.
Sunday was the big day! A quality match won by a very good Houston Dynamo side, well organized and motivated by Dominic Kinnear. I take a little bit of pride in knowing that ex-Sounders Brian Ching and Craig Waibel had a lot to do with getting the team another championship. Unfortunately, Chinger was out with an injury, but it just goes to show how deep, well-balanced and well-coached Houston is, that they were able to win without a leader like Ching on the pitch.
Another whirlwind trip, but I wanted to give everyone a bit of the highlights.