SEATTLE - U.S. Soccer is in conversations with Sounders FC and CenturyLink Field about making Seattle one of the sites for next summer’s Copa América Centenario, Sounders Chief Operating Officer Bart Wiley revealed on Thursday night.
Wiley made the announcement during the team’s Annual Business Meeting with Season Ticket Members, but said there’s still work to be done to ensure that Seattle will host matches in one of the biggest soccer tournaments in the world.
“We are talking often to our friends at U.S. Soccer, who are operating as the local organizing committee of the tournament,” Wiley said. “CenturyLink Field is possibly a host building for that event, and we are far down the road with them on conversations. We can’t say anything officially yet, but they want to be in Seattle, and we would like for that tournament to be in Seattle.
“We need to do a few more things contractually to make that happen.”
Next summer’s event will mark both the 100-year celebration of the tournament and the first time it will been held on U.S. soil. Widely regarded as one of the highest-profile soccer tournaments in the world, next summer’s event will welcome 10 teams from South America’s CONMEBOL federation and six from CONCACAF, including Mexico and the United States.
The 16-team competition is scheduled to take place in 12 cities across the U.S. next June. ESPNFC.com reported on Friday that the championship will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The following are some other notable excerpts from Thursday’s Annual Business Meeting, featuring Wiley, Majority Owner Adrian Hanauer, Minority Owner Joe Roth and General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey.
On new turf at CenturyLink Field:
Wiley confirmed that new turf will be installed over the winter and it will be ready for the Sounders’ matchup against Club America in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals in late February. The exact date of that match has yet to be determined.
“We are working with the Seahawks right now to determine the final product,” Hanauer said. “It’s been FieldTurf in the past, I would say there is a high likelihood it would be FieldTurf for the next switchover. That decision will have to made very soon, in the next few weeks.”
Hanauer also said that it’s potentially feasible but also unlikely there will be a temporary grass field installed at CenturyLink Field during the spring and summer before the Seattle Seahawks schedule begins.
“I wouldn’t rule it out completely, but it’s not going to happen in the next year or two,” Hanauer said.
Hanauer said he would not discuss the details of personnel decisions made by the club, but that he was well aware of the negative opinions from fans surrounding the decision. He also said that the club is working on finding a replacement ahead of next season, and that he’s hopeful the position will be filled by the first part of next year.
“We do not wake up in the morning and try to anger our fans, and make decisions that people disagree with,” Hanauer said. “But we make a lot of difficult decisions all the time. We’ve made lots in the past that people have disagreed with and we will make more that people disagree with, but we ultimately make the decisions that we deem the right decisions …
“Sometimes we can share the rationale, sometimes we can’t. When we move a player out, for instance, we’re not going to talk about that publicly. And we’re not going to talk about personnel decisions and what goes into that.”
Hanauer also said that he and current analyst Kasey Keller will sit down in the very near future and discuss his future with the club.
On changes to General Manager retention vote:
Sounders FC and the Alliance Council announced an amendment clarifying the process for the Alliance vote of retention for the club’s General Manager, which arises every four years during the tenure of the General Manager. Lagerwey’s position would not face a potential vote of retention until the end of the 2018 season. The previous vote was held in 2012, with fans electing to retain then-General Manager Adrian Hanauer.
In the event that the club hires a new General Manager prior to four years elapsing, this amendment also added the right for the Alliance to undertake a vote to recall two years into the newly hired General Manager’s tenure. Lagerwey would not face a potential vote to recall until the end of the 2016 season.
On rumors of Osvaldo Alonso’s departure and player moves:
Lagerwey acknowledged he was aware of a recent report on SI.com indicating the club is actively trying to trade the longtime Sounders midfielder, but also said such rumors are part of the business this time of year.
“I would not be doing my job if I didn’t take questions and inquires about any player on the team,” Lagerwey said. “Certainly, this time of year when the season winds down, you get asked about good players. We get a lot of phone calls, and those phone calls will continue. It’s a normal course of business.
“Now, am I sympathetic to Ozzie and his family, who are potentially disrupted by that? Of course. It’s a bummer for them. But it’s what we do. Our job as general managers is to try and make the group better any way we can, and we’d be derelict in our duty if we weren’t having conversations and exploring ways to do that.”
Lagerwey said the team will host the players’ exit meetings on Friday, and while none of the players have asked to be moved or made the decision to retire, he did not rule put either possibility in the coming days.
On Sounders FC Academy product Jordan Morris:
Lagerwey said he is currently not allowed to speak with the Stanford junior about potentially joining the Sounders next season, but the club is hopeful he will choose to sign a Homegrown contract.
Morris is currently with the U.S. National Team ahead of the Americans’ first two World Cup Qualifiers on the road to Russia 2018. The NCAA season concludes Dec. 13.
“He’s still playing in college, so technically I can’t talk to him right now, because we don’t want to jeopardize his availability,” Lagerwey said. “He’s having a great season for Stanford, and several of us have seen him play a couple of times this year. He’s a kid with a bright future. As I’ve said since the second day I took the job, Jordan will sign if he wants to sign. There’s nothing we can do about it, and we hope he does.
“I hope he goes to school as long as he wants to go to school, and when he’s ready to come out, he comes home.”
On S2 roster:
Lagerwey said he expects four current S2 players to be invited to Sounders preseason camp next spring: Oalex Anderson, Ashani Fairclough, Sergio Mota and Tyler Miller.
On coaching staff:
Lagerwey said that former Sounders defender Djimi Traore will likely play a larger role in the Sounders coaching staff next season, working with the club’s young defenders.
On Sounders and S2 doubleheader:
Wiley said it’s possible the two teams could play a doubleheader at CenturyLink Field next year, but that complications around scheduling at the stadium will ultimately determine if the idea comes to fruition.
On S2’s exclusion from the U.S. Open Cup in 2016:
Lagerwey downplayed the importance of S2 and other MLS-owned USL clubs being excluded from the tournament going forward, and insisted that the Sounders will “continue to pursue the Open Cup with vigor, through our first team.”
On the AT&T MLS All-Star Game in Seattle:
Hanauer said that while the Sounders have internally entertained the idea of CenturyLink Field playing host to the MLS All-Star Game in the future, he expects that the league will likely grant the opportunity to host the event to expansion franchises in the coming years.