First we starved, then we feasted. Now it appears we’re pushing ourselves away from the table.
Perhaps Puget Sound’s appetite for watching professional soccer has sated, at least if the recent ambivalence toward the offering of extra courses is any indication.
Make no mistake, Seattle remains a North American attendance phenomenon, averaging about 6,000 more fans per game than the next-best crowd count in MLS. Sounders FC is currently pulling 40,236, and that number will only grow with CenturyLink Field’s full capacity available for four summer dates.
So maybe they wouldn’t be coveted for the waiting line at the DMV. But two Sounders rookies have unwaveringly embraced the numbers they’ve been issued.
When Victor Mansaray sprinted onto the Toyota Stadium pitch last week, he not only became the youngest Seattle pro to appear in a competitive first team match, the 18-year-old also broke new ground by wearing ’80’ on his kit, front and back.
A few minutes later the numerology bar was pushed higher still with the introduction of number 91, Oniel Fisher.
The Numbers Game
While it took 33 years to break with tradition and go beyond the 30s, now the Sounders are approaching the outer limits. Officially FIFA restricts numbers to 99, but as those attending the Xolos friendly will attest, who’s counting?
Tijuana substitute Matthew Gomes wore 104 on his back, and the club roster lists a first team player with 112. Furthermore, their academy ledger is loaded with players asssigned triple digits.
No, this ain’t your dad’s Sounders Reserves. But ultimately its success will be determined the same way.
For those of us who shivered in ones and twos at Renton Stadium back in the day, the notion of Sounders 2 opening before a big crowd is only one of the reasons our minds are blown.
To think that S2 and its fellow MLS reserves are part of respectable national league, complete with playoffs, and attracting more fan interest than the soccer equivalent of geeky baseball scouts with radar guns and stopwatches, is yet another sign of the thriving times in American futbol.
Reserve programs playing in the USL (formerly USL PRO) have now outstripped their parent clubs for the number of incarnations that have come and gone over 39 years. Their purpose has shifted from time to time. However when attached to a top-tier club, the focus has always been about producing talent, and that has not changed.
There’s the unprecedented, and then there’s the not-so-sexy underpinning for building what dreams may come.
Certainly the sizzle for the Sounders 2 unveiling is the community ownership component in which 20 percent of the USL PRO franchise will belong to Rave fans from near and far. That’s groundbreaking, but it’s the literal groundbreaking behind the Starfire Stadium west goal that will truly unlock the potential of this already abundant soccer park, opening the door to new events and new fans.
Funds generated from the Sounders Community Trust Founders Club will be devoted to capital improvement projects at Starfire, namely the construction of a stadium support building (SSB) on the current site of the flag pavilion field.