SBD/Issue 31/Franchises

Seattle Sounders Extend Brand Beyond MLS Into A Global Force

Sounders Set Another Single-Season Attendance
Record This Year, Averaging 36,173 Fans A Game

The MLS Sounders in their second season have "already become a flourishing brand that resonates globally and serves as a model for franchises in all sports," according to Joshua Mayers of the SEATTLE TIMES. Led by a "driven ownership group, picture-perfect marketing and impeccable timing," the Sounders' fan support at Qwest Field is "on par with some of the most prestigious clubs in Europe." The team set an MLS record in home attendance this season, averaging 36,173 fans per game, and that total "would be top 10 in the EPL, top five in Spain's La Liga and top three in Italy's Serie A." SI soccer writer Grant Wahl said, "The distance Seattle has put on the (MLS) field is stunning." MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "There's little doubt amongst anyone in the professional sports community, here or even abroad, that this was one of, if not the, most successful launch of a professional sports expansion team in history." Mayers notes Sounders fans have "done their part as consumers." The team's merchandise sales "top MLS and are more than twice that of the No. 2 team, the Philadelphia Union." The Sounders also were "one of two" MLS teams to make a profit in '09. In addition, Sounders games on ESPN "lead the league in local ratings." With franchises in Portland and Vancouver joining MLS next season, "an impassioned three-way Pacific Northwest rivalry will be reborn." Still, Sounders Owner Joe Roth said that "becoming stagnant" is his "greatest fear." Roth: "That's my number-one concern and what keeps me up at night. How do we keep growing?" Sounders investor Drew Carey said, "I want to sell out Qwest Field totally -- with no tarps at all. I don't know how many years it will take us -- 20, 25, 50? I just want to be alive to see it. That's what I'm dreaming about" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/24).

TIME TO STEP IT UP: MLS Toronto FC has pledged to hold prices "firm in 2012 for season-ticket holders who renew their seats for 2011 by the club-imposed deadline." The team missed the playoffs for the fourth time in as many years, and TFC officials in a letter to fans on the club's website said the team "has let you down on and off the pitch." TFC vowed to "create a winning culture." After a series of town-hall meetings with fans, the club also promised to "solve transportation headaches around BMO Field on game days" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/23).

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