When Sounders FC clinched its first MLS Cup playoff berth on October 17, 2009, there was a brief celebration in the team’s locker room after a 3-2 road win over the Kansas City Wizards. Seattle had accomplished something that hadn’t been done in Major League Soccer since 1998, reaching the postseason in the club’s inaugural season. While first-year expectations were high within the club, it seemed a lofty goal from the start of the season.
In 2013, Sounders FC qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, marking the second-longest postseason appearance streak to Real Salt Lake's six-straight trips. Seattle is one of three teams, joining RSL and the LA Galaxy, to qualify for the playoffs every season since 2009. The club is also nearing the record for the most consecutive postseason appearances by an expansion team trailing only the Chicago Fire, who qualified for the playoffs each of its first six seasons from 1998-2003.
Each year, reaching the playoffs has become more and more of an expected result to the season and the celebrations have become more and more muted.
“After that first year, it became kind of an expectation with the community, with our fans, with the media and with everybody in the organization. We expect to make the playoffs,” Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer said. “It’s a check mark on one of our goals for the year. Now we know we need to move on and perform in the playoffs.”
The Sounders have had regular season success, ranking among the top three teams for overall record since 2009 along with LA and Salt Lake. They have also won three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles and reached the championship match a fourth time. In CONCACAF Champions League, they reached the tournament quarterfinals in 2012 and the semifinals in 2013, becoming the first MLS club to eliminate a Mexican opponent with a 3-2 comeback win over Tigres in the 2013 quarterfinals.
However, the prize that has eluded Seattle has been the MLS Cup.
In the club’s first three postseason appearances, Seattle saw a first-round exit. Last year, though, a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake sent Sounders FC to the Western Conference Championships for the first time. However, it dropped that series to the eventual-champion LA Galaxy, 4-2 on aggregate.
Now, back for a fifth run at MLS Cup, Seattle is looking for its first appearance in the final and to Hanauer that is the goal – not simply reaching the playoffs.
“For us, it’s kind of a minimum standard, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been a successful season,” Hanauer said. “It means it hasn’t been a failure of a season, but we want to win trophies. And you don’t get a trophy for making the playoffs.”
Sounders FC playoff tickets will go on sale next Monday at 10 a.m. PT. The first home playoff match will be played sometime between Wednesday, October 30 and Thursday, November 7. The complete schedule for the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs will be determined following the conclusion of the regular season finale against the LA Galaxy on Sunday.
Tickets will be available at www.SoundersFC.com or by calling 800-745-3000.