The club opened operations in 1974 and is now one of the powers in U.S. soccer (photo courtesy Frank MacDonald).
In 1974, soccer players came to Seattle from far and wide not knowing what to expect from the Emerald City. What they found at the end of the proverbial yellow brick road in the shadow of the Space Needle at Memorial Stadium was a veritable soccer mecca that has been home to many of those players in the long-gone years since the North American Soccer League’s Sounders folded in 1983. What they all continue to share with players and fans from many generations in Seattle is a passion for the Sounders name that, while it has briefly faded from the public consciousness at times, has grown to new heights with the success of Sounders FC in Major League Soccer.
Over the course of the year, the 40th anniversary of that inaugural season, along with the players that have donned Seattle jerseys in the NASL, the A-League/USL and Major League Soccer, will be celebrated by Sounders FC in joint efforts being coordinated between the Sounders FC front office and Alliance Council.
“Even though this iteration of the club is only five years young, the history of professional and recreational soccer has a long tenure in Seattle and the Northwest. For the simple fact that the supporters insisted on getting this iteration named after the NASL/USL/A-League clubs is testament that our supporters understand that this history is important to recognize and pay homage to,” said Likkit Pocinwong, who has been among a group on Alliance Council that has been helping brainstorm ideas with the front office. “That Sounders symbolism is a source of pride for our city and our region. For those of us old enough to remember the NASL days, the Sounders were something our families shared with us and now the team is something we can share with our own families. It is a story that started 40 years ago in Seattle and continues to this day and hopefully well into the future.”
1974 saw a soccer boom across the states, with the NASL expanding from nine to 15 teams and attendance averages jumping from 5,974 to 7,841 – a number that would nearly double to over 14,000 by 1979. Seattle was at the center of that with the Sounders, who averaged 13,463 fans at Memorial Stadium in their inaugural season.
Led by the likes of Scotland and Everton legend Jimmy Gabriel, English standout goalkeeper Barry Watling and star forward John Rowlands, the Sounders took Seattle by storm, becoming heroes for a generation of soccer fans that included current Sounders FC Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer, along with other locals in the organization like assistant coaches Brian Schmetzer and Tom Dutra, Sporting Director Chris Henderson, Director of Youth Development Darren Sawatzky and Academy Coach Dick McCormick, among others.
Stay tuned for more on the celebration ahead.