This Could Be Big

Sure, it’s early. But just think: Tuesday’s match between the USL Sounders and the Wizards could have a lot to say about whether international competition awaits Seattle Sounders FC in the autumn of 2009.

Today, Kansas City. Tomorrow, Man United?

Sure, it’s early. But just think: Tuesday’s match between the USL Sounders and the Wizards could have a lot to say about whether international competition awaits Seattle Sounders FC in the autumn of 2009.

Beginning this year, U.S. Soccer has declared that the winner of the U.S. Open Cup will earn an automatic berth in the following year’s CONCACAF Champions League. So, if Seattle should win its quarterfinal game next week at Qwest Field, Adrian Hanauer will be asking federation officials, ‘What if Seattle goes all the way?’

“We’ve started that conversation with U.S. Soccer, and if we’re lucky enough to get past Kansas City,” says Hanauer, “there will be another one next week, and I’d say the urgency level would be fairly extreme.”

The wrinkle involves the Sounders, present and future. The USL club is scheduled to close shop following this season, giving way to the Sounders FC debut in Major League Soccer next spring. If the Sounders lift the cup, to whom will go the spoils?

Hanauer will present a case that binds the two clubs together; one that makes Champions League berth transferrable. He is majority owner of the USL team. He is also general manager and among the ownership group of the MLS club.

Further, there will be continuity on the team side. Already it has been announced that Sebastien Le Toux will migrate to Sounders FC, and more of the USL players are expected to follow.

Earning a slot in the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League would be a big deal, to say the least. Especially for a first-year club wishing to one day play on the world stage.

U.S. Soccer determines which four American clubs take part. The remaining three Champions League slots go to the winner of the MLS Cup and MLS Supporters Shield (best regular season record) and MLS Cup runner-up.

The CONCACAF Champions League, which begins this fall, determines the region’s representative in the FIFA Club World Cup. Already booked for this December’s finals are European champion Manchester United.

Mexican and Central American teams tend to dominate CONCACAF. Still, this is the sole avenue for an MLS side to play the likes of AC Milan, the reigning world champion, or South American giants, such as Boca Juniors.
Clearly, Seattle would be a longshot to join such legends in 2010, even if Sounders FC should gain entry. But the USL Sounders could conceivably put Sounders FC on that road and do so way, way ahead of schedule.

Just Ask Chris

When Seattle hosts Kansas City on Tuesday night, nobody in the Qwest Field stands will have a better understanding of both clubs than Chris Henderson.

Henderson, the Sounders FC technical director, was an assistant coach for the Wizards last season when they reached the MLS Western Conference final. He also sees the USL Sounders train and play on a regular basis. But if there’s any question as to his loyalty, Henderson will be wearing his Sounders scarf.

“Building on the momentum of the Chivas game, the Sounders need to look at being the aggressor and creating scoring chances,” says Henderson. “It’s a chance to prove our quality against a strong MLS side, one which has a good mix of veterans and young players.”

Among those wizards singled-out by Henderson are centerback Jimmy Conrad, Argentine attacker Claudio Lopez, and Josh Wolff, newly signed to bolster the frontline.

This will be Kansas City’s 10th road game in its last 12 outings, which might explain the team’s slow start in league play, says Henderson.

Seattle will be coming off a road trip to the Carolinas and hopes to have two key players fit in time. Both Leighton O’Brien and Josh Gardner stayed home to heal injuries sustained in the 2-0 win over Chivas USA. Incidentally, Le Toux leads all Open Cup scorers with five goals.

The winner advances to the Open Cup semifinals Aug. 12, and Hanauer will bid for that round to again be played at Qwest. Over 10,000 fans watched the Sounders’ semifinal cup tie in 2007.

A Who’s Who in Houston

Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Fernando Torres will be among a rare collection of world stars sharing the same field Saturday night in Houston.

A purse of $1 million will be awarded to the winner of Free Kick Master USA, a live pay-per-view event at Reliant Stadium. Four years ago, the inaugural Free Kick Masters competition in Spain was a stadium sellout and seen by 110 million viewers in 30 countries.

Joining the aforementioned dead ball artists are 21 other shooters, ranging from stars such as Alessandro Del Piero, Juninho and Deco, to the winner of a Houston area tryout.

Charged with stopping them are nameless locals deployed in human walls (lucky them) arranged by name brand EPL keepers like David James, Brad Friedel and our own Kasey Keller. The best shot-stopper goes home with $500,000.

Shooters get a total of seven tries from various distances and angles, plus a Golden Ball shot worth double points. The longer the shot, the greater the value. Keepers earn more points the closer the save.

No word on what the guys in the five-man walls get, besides numerous welts and blasts to all parts of their anatomy.

Turn On, Tune In

With the Euro now complete, the next few weeks afford TV viewers an opportunity to dwell on the domestic game.

It begins Friday, Independence Day. That afternoon (4 p.m.) HDNet customers can get a glimpse of the Sounders’ upcoming cup foe, Kansas City, playing at Dallas.

There’s a Saturday doubleheader on Fox Soccer Channel. This past week’s featured interviewee, Brandon Prideaux, and his Chicago Fire face Columbus (5 p.m.), followed by San Jose at Chivas USA (8 p.m.).

Next Thursday night’s game on ESPN2 is the SoCal derby between the Galaxy and Chivas (8 p.m.). Coming next Friday, July 11, the Sounders’ visit to Rochester on FSC.


Tickets for the Seattle-KC quarterfinal are $17 in advance or $20 at the Qwest Field gate. Kickoff is 7 p.m…The U.S. women’s national team plays Sweden on Saturday. Hope Solo got the shutout in Wednesday’s 4-0 win at Norway…A decision is forthcoming on which overage players will join the U.S. U23 men for next month’s Olympic Games. Among those chosen for Argentina’s team were Juan Roman Riquelme and Javier Mascherano. At age 21, Messi was already a member…Just as Europe’s champion was determined on penalties, so too was the winner in South America. Ecuador’s LDU was beaten by Rio’s Fluminense in the second leg, but with the aggregate tied 5-5, the outcome of the series went to the spot. The Quito club prevailed 3-1 in the tiebreaker Wednesday. LDU will now join Manchester United and four other confederation champions for the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates next December…Dusty Hudock, former UW and Sounders keeper, will be awaiting Seattle’s visit to Charleston on Saturday. Hudock’s Battery prevailed in penalties in a third round Open Cup tie with Houston…This week the Sounders women face a difficult series on the road, playing three times in four days in and around L.A…As for Canada’s representative in the CONCACAF Champions League, two USL sides are very much alive. After three rounds, Montreal is the leader with six points and Vancouver upset Toronto on the road this past week. The Whitecaps host the Reds July 9.