CONCACAF Champions League play is a collection of matches against high profile clubs like Mexico’s Santos Laguna and Costa Rica’s Saprissa and smaller clubs like Trinidad’s Caledonia AIA and San Francisco of Panama. Many fans see these extra matches as a burden on the team. The increase in travel is significant.
On the positive side it gives players outside of the starting XI a chance to play in competitive matches, such as Marcus Hahnemann tonight against Marathon. One of the lesser thought about benefits is how these matches expand awareness of Seattle Sounders FC among players, agents, coaches and other soccer professionals.
Tonight’s match is on Fox Soccer. It will be the seventh time the team is on that station in 2012. That is a potentially different audience than would be likely to watch games on the league partner networks of ESPN, NBC and Galavision. That has an impact on awareness of the Sounders in the United States.
But that is only a tentative impact. There are more direct impacts like when foreign signings say that part of the reason they are excited to be Sounders is because of the challenge of the Champions League. Michael Gspurning during the conference call announcing his signing did just that.
“I’m also very interested in the Champions League,” he said. “I think that the different culture of playing soccer like the MLS teams do and the Mexican teams do it is interesting to see the competition of them playing together.”
For certain players the idea of playing not just in the United States, but also the varied countries throughout CONCACAF has an appeal. Gspurning after the trip to Trinidad mentioned that with a smile on his face. Despite the long flight it was an exposure to a different culture, not just a different style of soccer.
Every opponent, and most soccer fans within those opponent nations, get to know the Sounders during their two matches played. Players throughout Honduras know of the Sounders. Whether they’ve seen Seattle live on the pitch or on television the Rave Green or Super Cyan are known. And it isn’t just Honduras. Players from Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago know of the Sounders in ever increasing numbers.
That familiarity can only help the long term efforts of GM Adrian Hanauer, Technical Director Chris Henderson and the rest of the staff dedicated to scouting.
There is less need to introduce the idea of the Seattle Sounders to others around soccer. More people know about the Sounders FC because of their competition and growing success in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Major League Soccer is currently the second best league competing in the regional championship. Very few of its clubs have number of matches played in it that Seattle does due to the Preliminary Round success and earlier this year’s appearance against Santos Laguna in the Championship Round.
It may just be a small little bonus to the tournament, but it is a bonus that exists.