Joe Roth

Call Us Sounders FC

The people have spoken, and the Seattle Sounders FC will now represent the city in Major League Soccer and around the world.
We have a winner!

There are a couple of slight bends in Fifth Avenue, between the place where professional soccer began in Seattle and where it is headed for 2009. And although the route to find its identity may have seemed circuitous at times, the club’s name will remain pretty much the same.

The people have spoken, and the Seattle Sounders FC will now represent the city in Major League Soccer and around the world.

More than 15,000 votes were cast online and the ‘Sounders’ and ‘FC’ derivations were included on a combined 82 percent of the ballots.

“Our fans have an incredible passion for the game and they have an incredible passion for the name,” said ownership representative Tod Leiweke at Monday’s announcement of the club’s name, colors and crest.

Pro soccer first set its roots in the city in 1974 with the Sounders, a North American Soccer League franchise, soon selling-out home games at Memorial Stadium. That club folded in 1983 only to be reincarnated in 1994 in the A-League (now United Soccer Leagues Division 1).

Come next spring, the Seattle Sounders FC opens play a mere two miles away, at the south edge of downtown, at Qwest Field.

Democracy in Action

Democracy in Sports is no different than democracy in government. It can be courageous, controversial and empowering, all at once. The ownership group sought to make their club fan-friendly from the outset, back in November. In the end, they entrusted fans to name the club.

“We wanted this franchise to be different, and I think this is a great start for us as owners to trust the fans, to show that we are about Democracy in Sports” said majority owner Joe Roth.

In the five months since the club’s conception, Roth and Leiweke, the CEO of Paul Allen’s Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, said owners and team management wrestled with the naming issue. MLS officials also offered suggestions.

“It was a very fluid process and we were committed to letting the fans have their say,” Leiweke said. “We wanted the fans to have a chance to take charge. We listened to a lot of constituents, a lot of international branding experts but in the end the voice we heard most was our fans.”

During the Mar. 27-31 voting period, fans were offered a choice of Seattle Alliance, Seattle FC, Seattle Republic or the option of a write-in. Sounders, or derivations thereof, accounted for 49 percent of the votes. Seattle FC and other variations accounted for another 33 percent.

“It’s very much like doing a movie in that there’s an inevitability, only you’re not aware of it at the time,” added Roth, whose career has been in producing motion pictures. “When you’re done you say, Of course! That’s it!”

“Along the way you convince yourself of a hundred different things and finally something happens,” he continued. “In this case it was the fans speaking.”

It Says It All

For many, ‘Sounders’ says it all. It’s has been the moniker for top-class soccer in Seattle for 24 of the last 34 years. ‘FC’ also has a stake in the sport’s local history. FC Seattle Storm operated for seven of the 10 seasons (1984-90) the Sounders were not in existence.

As a young boy, Adrian Hanauer, a team owner and the general manager, was a devout fan of the original Sounders. Hanuaer read from a 1973 statement made by Walt Daggatt, the NASL team’s managing partner.

Daggatt was quoted as saying that “soccer fans of the area should be heard with regard to naming the team. This, after all, will be their team.”

“This indicates to me, to us the owners, that this has always been the fans’ team,” said Hanauer, “and it will continue to be the fans’ team. Our job is to carry the torch, to be stewards of this franchise, to be bigger and better and go beyond what’s been done in the past.”

“I think we have the best of both worlds,” said Roth. “We’re honoring our past but moving forward.”

No matter which generation or which Sounders, there has been significant partisan support from the Puget Sound soccer community.

Unwavering Support

Seattle recorded the first sellouts in NASL history at Memorial, then went on to average in excess of 24,000 in later seasons at the Kingdome. The current Sounders set a USL single game mark of 25,515 in 2002, when Qwest Field opened.

Since November, the MLS Seattle franchise has sold nearly 14,000 season ticket deposits, including more than 500 last week, during the height of voting activity.

“Our support is becoming legend in this league,” said Leiweke. “I think (MLS) Comissioner Garber is thrilled about where we’ve ended up.”

On the playing field, the Sounders not only won games but did so with an entertaining style. They were twice NASL runners-up and set regular season record for wins in 1980. In the USL, Seattle has won two championships in the last three years and four titles overall.

The Sounders FC colors–blue, green and shale–are linked with their forerunners as well, albeit with a twist. The Sounder Blue is reminiscent of the aqua of the NASL days. Rave Green is electric and just a tick up the Pantone scale from the accent fast becoming popular among the Seahawks faithful.

Seattle’s iconic Space Needle was both the location for the announcement and the prominent image on the club crest.

Although the team uniform is still in the final stages of design, club officials hope to have merchandise such as T-shirts, scarves and caps available soon.

Fans Are Still Speaking

Roth, Leiweke and Hanauer emphasized that the fans will continue to be given a voice.

“They will speak in a number of ways,” Leiweke says. “We’re going to ask them about how we present the game because that is a huge part of the brand of this team. And we’ve got some announcements in future weeks about our fan association and what that’s going to mean.”

Seattle is known for its music, its technology and aviation industries. Sounders FC leaders want to extend that list.

“We want this to be known as one of, if not the most fan-friendly franchise in sports,” said Leiweke.

And along with those successful companies and signature sounds, Roth wants to remind the world of something else, that soccer reigns in Seattle.

“We’re still a year away from putting a team on the field, and now that we have a team name, one of my goals is to really push all of the ideas forward,” Roth said. “Whether it’s signing players or sponsors to television deals, we have to keep the momentum driving from this point, and use this as a base to project ourselves forward.”



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