Starting XI: 11 reasons to get hyped for the Seattle Sounders in 2018

There are lots of things to be excited about this season as a Sounders supporter. From CONCACAF Champions League to a new primary kit, the two-time defending champs of the West look to keep momentum going in the new year. Here’s a rundown to get you hyped for 2018. Remember… preseason is just two weeks away!

 MLS SuperDraft

Will we find our next Cristian Roldan? Perhaps Garth Lagerwey makes another trade, like the one that landed Joevin Jones? You never know what may happen during the two days of the MLS SuperDraft, which will be held in Philadelphia on Friday, January 19 with the third and fourth rounds occurring via conference call on Sunday, January 21. Notable players to be selected here include Roldan, Tony Alfaro and Steve Zakuani, who was the club’s first-ever selection in 2009.

We’re back!

On January 22, players report to Starfire Sports Complex for preseason. It’s an unbelievably quick turnaround for the Rave Green, with fewer than six weeks separating the beginning of the new campaign from last month’s MLS Cup loss in Toronto. The team will then jet off to sunny skies for preseason stints in Southern California and Tucson.

New primary kit

2018 marks the arrival of a new primary kit for the Sounders, who have donned the blue-sleeved look to their green jerseys since the 2016 campaign. As usual, the club and adidas are both tight-lipped on the new style, which will be released prior to competition next month. An official date is yet to be announced.

Champions League

The Sounders are set to compete in CONCACAF Champions League this season – a massive regional tournament that has been emphasized by the club’s technical staff and ownership group. No MLS club has been crowned champion, with top Mexican sides historically dominating the competition. The Sounders begin their quest in a two-legged series against El Salvador’s Santa Tecla FC on February 22.

New Guys on the Block

New year, new team. The Sounders begin the 2018 MLS campaign against Los Angeles FC, who will play in their inaugural match at CenturyLink Field on March 4. The Sounders then visit LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium as the opponent in the expansion club’s home opener on April 29.

Return to BMO

At least it won’t be nearly as cold this time around, right? On May 9, the Rave Green return to BMO Field in a rematch of the past two MLS Cup showdowns. The Sounders won the first matchup in 2016, but the Reds avenged their loss with a 2-0 win in December. Expect another raucous crowd to be on-hand for this contest between two MLS powers.

10 of 11

The Sounders will see an impressive cast of returning players, with 10 of the club’s starting XI from MLS Cup 2017 coming back in 2018. Joevin Jones, who signed with Germany’s SV Darmstadt 98, is the only player not donning the Rave Green this year, but his replacement, Nouhou, made 23 MLS appearances in 2016, including four postseason starts. Notably, Clint Dempsey returns on a one-year deal after being named the 2017 MLS Comeback Player of the Year.

FIFA World Cup

Although the United States failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the Sounders will still be represented in the world’s most famous sporting tournament this summer. Midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro (Uruguay) and Román Torres (Panama) will almost certainly be called-in barring injury, while midfielder Gustav Svensson played a role in helping Sweden qualify.

Full season of 2017 newcomers

Last season, the Sounders brought in two dynamic players with Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) – midfielder Víctor Rodríguez and defender Kelvin Leerdam. Look for both players to be major influencers in the team’s success, with Leerdam holding down his spot at right back and Rodríguez starring as an effective attacking midfielder. Rodríguez tends to occupy the center of the park, similar to Dempsey and Lodeiro, so it will be interesting how Head Coach Brian Schmetzer makes it work in 2018.

Decade of Dominance

There has yet to be a postseason without the Sounders since 2009. For the past nine seasons, the Rave Green have reached the MLS Cup Playoffs – the longest active streak in the league. In 2018, the Sounders can match the all-time record set by the LA Galaxy from 1996-2005.

West Domination?

The Sounders will look to become the third team in MLS history to reach MLS Cup in three consecutive seasons. D.C. United reached the final in the first four years of the league’s existence, while the New England Revolution won the Eastern Conference in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In a league that is known for its parity, winning the West for a third straight season would be an incredible feat.

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