In December, the Seattle Sounders won their first Major League Soccer title, defeating Toronto FC in Canada before coming home to a hero’s welcome at Seattle’s Boeing Field where their owner, Adrian Hanauer, mused that the newly minted gold star added to the team’s logo would look more balanced with another.
In America’s Major League Soccer, that gold star is something that must be earned and can only be kept when five titles have been secured. If the victory is not followed by a repeat performance, the gold star turns silver after one year. However, if the Sounders manage to come out on top again next year, the first gold star hovering on their logo next to the Seattle Spaceneedle will be accompanied by a second on the other side.
As a Seattlite, I am a little sceptical of that kind of overt ambition. Although clichéd, we have been burned before. This first MLS victory for the Sounders feels a lot like 2014, when American football team Seattle Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl and won.
The whole city, based around high-tech industry like Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing, put down their laptops to watch the victory and celebrate afterwards. High school students like me were granted a day off to go watch the parade. It was short lived, however. The next year, when the Seahawks faced the New England Patriots, they narrowly lost and I had to face a cruel 7:30am biology class.
This year, we got the news that after two years of high hopes, while our Sounders may have won the MLS cup, the Seahawks lost a playoff game before American football novices like me even started paying attention. So now that our team has finally achieved their title, it seems a little foolhardy to sour the moment with ambition when we could be focused on celebration.
While, from a business perspective, this new win brings more attention to the Sounders than ever before, making it a must to capitalise on the spotlight with a promise of more victories to come, the Sounders have never struck me as that type of team.
The Sounders’ United in Green programme has long been a feature of the community, promoting empowerment through football and serving as a resource for the community. They work with after-school programmes that fight obesity and develop teamwork, and also with an organisation strengthening community and facilitating activity among the homeless community. Through the Sounders, money and attention is directed towards Tanzania as they partner with a local organisation to fundraise.
Not only do the Sounders have a robust legacy of community outreach, but they have an opportunity to extend it. The model of inclusion and empowerment they promote is one that has thrived in Seattle on the backs of stories about teams who worked hard and overcame obstacles to compete, such as the University of Washington’s rowing and women’s basketball teams. This year, the Sounders are nominated for the Sports Story of the Year award, a part of the MTR Western Sports Star of the Year Awards.
Wanting more wins and maintaining a competitive spirit will not tarnish the story of hard work and charity that underpins the Sounders’ success.
However, before focusing on the next steps in the Seattle story, we should look back and recognise everything that went into this first major victory and take stock of how far this team has come.
When it comes to an inspiring story, it is never about signing the right superstar or getting the revenue for a seasoned coach who changes everything: it is about the long game. Perhaps the quickly expiring clock attached to the gold on their new star is the problem.
Whether or not the Sounders even make it to the cup next year, they have surpassed expectations and built up the community while they did it. That cannot expire.
Image courtesy of Chris McClave