It’s been the most popular game in the world for decades. Its current form was originated in Britain. The original club, Sheffield FC, was founded in 1857. The largest attendance ever for one of its games was 199,854 people – twice the amount of the highest attended World Series game. It’s known the world over as football, except for here in America, where it is known as soccer, and it’s popularity is finally breaking down the last refuge that was America.
Although Major League Soccer is much younger than most other countries’ first divisions, and has only fifteen teams in 2009, but it is already the twelfth most attending premier division in the entire world. In 2006, MLS set a single game attendance record with 92,650 people – once again more than the highest attended World Series game.
Nowhere, in my opinion, is the proof that soccer can thrive more evident than here in Seattle. Contrary to popular belief, the Seattle Sounders have actually been around longer than this year.
Founded in 1994, the Sounders were a member of the United Soccer League First Division. However, the 1994 Seattle Sounders were named after the original Seattle Sounders soccer club, which played from 1974 until 1983 in the North American Soccer League.
In 2008, a Major League Soccer spokesman confirmed that Seattle would be a recipient of a 2009 MLS expansion team, the Seattle Sounders FC.
Former Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer became a new Sounders FC minority owner, along with Seahawks savior Paul Allen and not so funny comedian Drew Carey, while the majority owner became Hollywood producer Joe Roth, who made his millions for producing crap like Hellboy II, The Great Debaters, and the aptly named The Forgotten.
The Sounders could not have come at a better time, as Seattle sports fans were searching for something to fill the void of the recently departed Seattle SuperSonics. The fans, along with the voice of the Sonics, Kevin Calabro, have flocked to the Sounders. They opened the season with a sell-out crowd of 32,523, over twice the average Sonics attendance in their final season.
The Sounders have also adopted a few popular traditions from their Qwest Field counterpart, the Seahawks. Before every game, fans gather an hour and a half before kickoff at Occidental Park in Pioneer Square and then march the four blocks to the stadium. While this itself is unique to the Sounders, the 52 member marching band, named the Sound Wave, which leads the proceedings is very Blue Thunder-esque.
Whatever they’re doing, it’s working. The Sounders have a solid lead in third place and are making a strong push for the MLS Cup. They’re still selling out every game, even though by “selling out”, they’re selling half the seats in the stadium, although they do keep pushing the capacity higher and higher, and expect full capacity for their friendlies against Barcelona and Chelsea.
If a caffeine-stoned, technology toting, front running city like Seattle can get behind the Sounders on a consistent basis, MLS just might be here to stay.