If there’s one thing Seattle Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer has repeatedly said, it’s that the basis of the club, its entire ethos, is the relationship between the players and the fans.
That connection has served and guided the Sounders since its founding in 1974, and there’s perhaps no better steward than Schmetzer. A former player turned USL head coach turned MLS assistant and now entering his sixth full season at the helm, Schmetzer has long bridged the gap between the Sounders of old and its present iteration.
But with the opening of the new Longacres facility in 2024, which coincides with the club’s 50th anniversary, the Sounders will have something more tangible to carry its legacy forward.
“This is as an effort to crystallize and connect with that history so it’s not incumbent upon the individuals to bring those threads of consistency,” said Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer and former Sounders player Taylor Graham. “It’s not incumbent upon [Club Director of Goalkeeping] Tommy Dutra to talk about the bridges between the USL and MLS, or Brian Schmetzer. This is about formalizing and cementing that this is a club that’s built upon all four of those eras [including the NASL and A-League], and they each have impacted who we are today.
“We can build this together, acknowledge our past in the way it deserves with the respect that’s needed, but apply it for the future.”
The Sounders’ success over the past half-century is well-documented, as they’ve grown into one of the most successful clubs in United States soccer history. Seattle has won seven trophies since entering Major League Soccer in 2009, ushering in a new standard of success that has matriculated from its NASL, A-League and USL days.
“After the last two years that we’ve had, in 2019 when we look back to that indelible day of standing on Lumen Field with that trophy in front of 70,000 people celebrating, it really does now feel like the before times and the end of that first phase of our MLS journey,” said Chief Operating Officer Maya Mendoza-Exstrom. “This evolutionary leap is predicated on all of that foundation from the last 50 years. It’s not possible without it. But because of it, and because of this moment that we’re in, and because we have this chance to invest in ourselves and the future of our organization, we are uniquely situated and poised to take advantage of it.”
The creation of this world-class facility will further illustrate how committed the Sounders are to bring both a successful on-field product with the necessary ties to the people and place it serves.
“The Sounders to me is community,” said Graham. “It is community and it’s work. To me, the byproduct of community and work is championships. Championships are a part of it, but it’s the outcome of those two efforts of community and work and doing the right thing.”
There’s a reason why so many former players, Graham included, still have ties to the club in one way or another. From the late Jimmy Gabriel to current Sounders ambassadors Brad Evans and Steve Zakuani and everyone in between, this club means more than just wins and losses. General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey joined the club in 2015 and has felt that connection since he arrived. He understands that this new venue will only improve and enhance those rapports.
“It’s pretty humbling just to talk to some of the guys that played for the Sounders in the late ‘70s and to talk to the many ex-Sounders that still live in the area that grew up watching and idolizing the Sounders,” said Lagerwey. “I just think it’s culturally unique within the United States to have that track record and continuity…It’s authentic and it’s real.
“To think that it could be around for another 50 years is pretty awesome,” he continued. “We all want to leave a legacy. To be part of the Sounders in some sort of fashion, you really buy into this idea that we’re part of a bigger whole.”
Long after this edition of the front office and technical staff leave, as the years continue and new regimes enter, the club will still be there. The Sounders are in it for the long haul, and like Schmetzer said, it’ll still be the relationship between the players and the fans.
It is vital that the club engage all fans and supporters throughout the March to the 50th. A celebration of the club’s history and legacy in the buildup to 2024, the campaign is an opportunity to ensure as the club’s brand identity reflects feedback from fans.
“Their involvement, their participation is not only welcomed, it’s essential because those voices and inputs will set this club up,” said Graham. “This club takes pride in openness and transparency, which leads to participation…It forces the club, it forces me, to be accountable to those who matter most, which is our fans. That is the recipe for success for our organization. The process that we are undertaking is exactly that to set the club for the next 50 [years].”
You can explore all of the details about the Sounders FC Center at Longacres HERE.
To learn more about the March to the 50th and take the survey, click HERE.