Player Features

Born in 74 Sounders Legend: James Riley paving the way for next generation of Seattle soccer stars


The Seattle Sounders will honor former player James Riley prior to Saturday night’s home match against CF Montréal (7:30 p.m. PT; Watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, 950 KJR FM, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS) as part of the club’s 50th Anniversary season.

Since Riley’s arrival to Seattle in 2009, he has made a colossal impact within the Pacific Northwest soccer community. 

From beginning his journey in Seattle as a week-in, week-out start for inaugural the Sounders squad, to now supporting youth players toward the collegiate game and the big leagues, Riley continues to influence the game. 

“I’m very fortunate, very appreciative, very grateful and thankful to be back in this region and helping build soccer in any way possible and making an impact in any way possible,” said Riley.

Riley helped lay the foundation of what the club is today. He was a key player as the Sounders burst onto the scene in MLS, and he also led the team to three consecutive U.S. Open Cup titles during his three-year stint with the club. 

He looked back on the team’s inaugural match and first Open Cup win as two of his fondest experiences with the organization.

[The inaugural match] is something you dream about, to walk out to that standing ovation,” said Riley. “It’s one that I'll continue to tell my kids about.”

He continued, “And the first time that we won the Open Cup on our home field, for me, will go down in history. On home soil, in a tournament of that magnitude, was exceptional.”

Riley finished his Sounders tenure with 110 appearances across all competitions, along with one goal, five assists and 7,330 total minutes played in Major League Soccer. 

While he went on to compete with clubs Chivas USA, D.C. United, LA Galaxy and the Colorado Rapids after his time with the Sounders, his love for the Pacific Northwest was undeniable, eventually leading him back to Seattle — post-professional career — where he’s now built roots for himself and his family. 

“I purchased a home here, I met my wife here, and my kids were born here,” said Riley. “And so I always knew the Pacific Northwest would be some place that I wanted to settle down.” 

After retiring from the professional game, Riley transitioned into a role of coaching. He always felt it was his calling and knew Seattle would be the perfect place to focus on his craft of developing players and paving the way for youth in the game of soccer.

“I think I've always been destined to be a coach,” said Riley. “I think building community anywhere I went was important, but I think the reality is the most traction that I had was in Seattle, and longevity and staying power was in Seattle.”

Riley’s role in the soccer community is something he has worked hard on building since moving back to Seattle in 2018, beginning with his position on the broadcast team for the Sounders and then transitioning into the youth soccer scene as the Director of Coaching for Eastside Bellevue, CEO and Founder of soccer training and mentorship program JR7 and Head Coach for USL2 team Ballard FC.

“It's been a great opportunity for me to kind of give back to the next generation and just be a part of a soccer hotbed in the Pacific Northwest,” said Riley.

His achievements in the game as both a player and coach are due to his work ethic and perseverance, but it is his experience at the Sounders that has created the groundwork for him to thrive and influence others in the constantly growing soccer space of Seattle and beyond. 

“A lot of these things are kind of just testaments of the body of work that I was able to contribute to during my time [at the Sounders], but then also keeping my relationship strong while I was gone, knowing that this could be a place that I wanted to come back to,” said Riley.

Riley is among the many players from past Sounders teams who have remained a Pacific Northwest resident and continue to represent the organization as both a former member of the team and a forever fan of the club.

“The ties to the team and the organization are what makes it tremendously special,” said Riley. “I'm Sounders 'til I die, through and through.”

“They'll always, always have my support.”



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