Before they’d even played a match, the Sounders FC set new standards for ticket sales in Major League Soccer.
In each of their first two seasons, they smashed the league record for attendance.
This year, they are again extending that record and on Saturday against DC United, they surpassed their record-setting mark from 2010. With 36,242 in attendance at CenturyLink Field, their season total reached 553,987, overshadowing 2010’s mark of 542,595. This after posting a then-record 464,145 in the inaugural season in 2009.
The tremendous support isn’t lost on the players.
“It’s huge. From the start in the inaugural season, even without getting any trophies, the fans have been there,” said midfielder Lamar Neagle, who played the second half of the 2009 season and returned to Seattle this year after a stint in the USL. “It’s the best organization in the league and the records come along when we have fans like this.”
This season has been a banner year for the club in individual matches, too. A July friendly against Manchester United drew a record crowd of 67,052 (which is not figured into the season total) and the first match with expanded capacity against the New York Red Bulls drew 46,065.
With two more home matches on the slate, including a match against the San Jose Earthquakes in the regular season home finale that will have expanded seating capacity, that mark will extend well over 600,000, redefining the support standards in MLS.
“All year, the fans have been great. They’ve been unbelievable. You can’t ask for more out of them,” defender Jeff Parke said. “We’ve got to get the wins and at home it’s important to get all the points we can. With them coming out, we’ve got to put on a show for them.”
So far in 2011, Seattle's average attendance would rank among the top 40 in the world, including sixth in Spain's La Liga, seventh in the English Premier League and 13th in Germany's Bundesliga.
“That’s a great compliment to the front office and everybody involved in the Sounders organization. It’s a reflection of the loyalty of our fans and their continued commitment to our team and hopefully we’ve brought them some enjoyment by being able to come out and watch us,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Every time we step out on the field we recognize them and we realize how important they are to us being successful as a team.”
Each of the 46 MLS regular season and playoff matches have been sold out. There have been six international friendlies that have averaged over 54,000, topped by the crowd when Manchester United visited earlier this summer.
And with increased success across all competitions, there are seemingly infinite possibilities for the level of support the club could eventually gain.
“I don’t know if there is an end. It’s a process and it continues to grow,” Sounders FC senior vice president of business operations Gary Wright said. “We all have visions of what it could look like in five years, ten years, 20 years down the line. But we do have some patience too. Incrementally we’ve opened up different sections of the stadium at different times. It’s a process we go through and we don’t want to be hasty and get impatient. We know it is coming. The sport is growing all the time as the world gets smaller.”