And An Eventful New Year Image

And An Eventful New Year

At 16 months from birth announcement to first kick, Seattle's run-up to its first season of play will be the longest of any Major League Soccer franchise.

At 16 months from birth announcement to first kick, Seattle’s run-up to its first season of play will be the longest of any Major League Soccer franchise.

The upside to this schedule is that the owners and management can be deliberate in process and making key decisions.

Of course, fans know the downside: It’s an awfully long time to wait until that first game.

Yet as new 2008 calendars are hung on the wall, be assured that the New Year will be far from dull.

What now is only an idea will soon become a true entity, with a name, colors and crest. In ensuing months those season ticket deposits will translate into actual seat locations, the first front office hires will arrive on the job and uniforms will be unveiled.

There are other outlets for the fans as well, beginning with games. Professional, college and even top youth matches become more compelling with the knowledge that some of these players could be wearing Seattle colors come 2009.

Anyone who’s ever anxiously waited at a traffic light knows that idling people can get cranky, and that’s their prerogative. Fans’ words are being heard and read online. Compare that to 25 years ago, when the NASL Sounders occupied the top of the local soccer pyramid, and a supporter’s only recourse was a letter sent to the editor of a local paper, or perhaps the team office.

Being Heard

Think of how much has changed since that age. Not only do fans have a multitude of online outlets for their ideas and frustrations, they already have a club which has promised a voting voice to its members.

To those who have been waiting nearly a quarter-century for top-flight soccer’s return, these advancements are beyond anyone’s wildest hallucinations. It would also seem to be a genuine gesture from the team to, ideally, create a seamless, transparent bond with the community.

Seattle’s team has not yet reached two months of age, yet in these first few weeks much has been learned or shared.

Loud and clear, the people have been heard, be it through nickname submissions, season ticket deposit sales or simply the buzz on the street. Clearly, everyone associated with the launch of MLS Seattle realizes two things: a) that there is an acute, ongoing hunger for professional soccer and, b) that they, the owners and management, must sustain this wave of momentum with sound decisions in further forming the club’s foundation.

Faith & Trust

Initially, this relationship between supporter and club is based on faith. Joe Roth, Adrian Hanauer, Paul Allen and Drew Carey believed that Seattle was right for MLS.

In turn, the fans have placed faith in these leaders to the tune of nearly 11,000 deposits. Further, they trust that this will become an organization in which they can take pride. Yes, appearance (colors, logo, et al.) matters. So does competence and character.

During these first couple months, you’ve been introduced to some of the key figures whom are entrusted with building this MLS club.

Tod Leiweke, the CEO of Allen’s Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, has proven himself with both the Seahawks and Trail Blazers (and Minnesota Wild and Golden State Warriors beforehand) to be responsive to what fans demand of their teams and their facilities. He plans to provide a similar yet unique experience for MLS fans.

Hanauer has hinted at some of the qualities he is seeking in the players, and has indicated that he and his scouting network will look near and far when stocking the roster. His success with the Sounders has not so much based on spending the most money in USL-Division 1 but creating the proper chemistry on the field. The evidence is two championships in the last three years.

Two months ago, fans knew little about the team’s majority owner. Now, Joe Roth is known as a lifelong disciple of the game. He’s played it, coached it and watched it. He believes in the game and, like his fellow owners, has bet on it big.

Going Forward

Bright people all, and also good listeners. Like those who talk at the pubs or espouse opinions through threads or blogs online, they realize both opportunities and challenges lie ahead. They endeavor to be true to the sport yet creative in their solutions. They ask questions and are hoping that their decisions prove worthy of the fans’ trust.

So as 2008 marches forward and MLS Seattle takes shape, this space will be largely devoted to giving a voice and face to the club and helping to further build community.

The plan is to continue sharing more about key people and programs; detailing the roles played by those from the past, present and future; and also digesting the wealth of information on local and world soccer and illustrating its relevance to what goes on in this Northwest Soccer Nation.

Stay tuned, remain passionate and keep the faith that the plan is not just to deliver a competitive, model MLS team, but a Seattle club which the world will one day regard as one of the finest.

And with that, best wishes for a rewarding and healthy New Year.